Preds need Rinne to step up

STEVE MacFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:01 AM ET

It didn't take long to realize it's going to be tough for the Vancouver Canucks/Nashville Predators series to live up to the excitement of the opening round set with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unless, of course, Pekka Rinne can play as well as he did Thursday night the rest of the way.

The Preds goaltender was so good that even when Chris Higgins finally put a puck past him in the second period, the refs had to check the video just to be sure the shutout bid was snapped.

He's the only reason Game 1 — a 1-0 Canucks victory at Rogers Arena — was even close despite the fact the hosts came out looking a little tired after ending Game 7 against the Hawks in overtime less than 48 hours earlier.

Having a team like the Preds in the second round against the Presidents’ Trophy winners is great for the game. A small-market team taking centre stage.

But their time in the spotlight will be short-lived without the rest of their worker bees getting on board with the, er, queen, who was busy between the pipes.

ALONG THE BOARDS

Thought Carrie Underwood (Mrs. Mike Fisher) was rooting for the other team. Then I realized it was just a cardboard cutout of the country singer dressed in a Canucks jersey ... Is soccer big in Sweden? Some decent panic dribbling by Henrik Sedin to prevent a shorthanded breakaway chance for Fisher in the second period ... Rinne was great, but Preds D Ryan Suter made the save of the game in the second period when the puck squeezed through the netminder's wickets ... Chris Higgins opened the scoring for the second straight series. Does this mean the Preds will fall behind by three games then force Game 7 overtime? ... Hard to believe that after the “unintentional” Middle Finger Incident and now the “accidental” shoulder to Jeff Halpern’s chin that Bruins nice guy Andrew Ference has escaped with just a little fine that barely made a dent in his chequebook. He’s probably got designer glasses that cost more than $2,500. Not buying his latest statement that he was just bracing for contact, either — Ference could have done that by just stiffening up as opposed to leaning into it. Halpern deserves blame, too, but Ference’s respectful reputation has pretty much been irreparably damaged in the span of a week.

OFF THE GLASS

So Alex Burrows scores the OT winner one night and officially becomes a dad the next? If good things really do come in threes, how can the Canucks not win the Cup now? ... A great line from Jim Hughson when the Burrows potted that overtime goal, "Exhale, British Columbia." ... It's apparently nuts on the coast right now. Phoenix Coyotes forward Kyle Turris got home and felt the need to announce via Twitter that there are signs and flags all over the place ... Thanks in a big way to that incredible Canucks/Blackhawks series, Hockey Night in Canada scored the highest average audience ever in the opening round. About 2.148 million people tuned in on average, up nearly 50% from last season. The Boston Bruins/Montreal Canadiens series drew the highest average at 2.851 million over the seven games. The Canucks/Hawks were right behind at 2.729 million ... Mats Sundin watched the game at the rink Thursday night, apparently as a 'fan' of the Canucks. Since when does a miserable half-season with one team qualify you to alumni status?

THIS 'N’ THAT

The Boston Bruins are the first team in NHL history to win a seven-game playoff series without scoring a single powerplay goal, going 0-for-21 against the Montreal Canadiens. Imagine how good they'll be if they finally get their special teams stuff together ... Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault must have been feeling fine after his team gutted out their seven-game series victory against the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He had a couple of funny lines Thursday morning. On Alex Burrows scoring the OT winner and then his wife giving birth the next night — "That's a pretty good day for a little Frenchman." Then on Daniel Sedin being a Hart finalist after his twin brother Henrik won a year ago — "Danny really wanted to prove to his brother he's as good as him." ... Nice to see Don Cherry reverted to a less seizure-inducing suit on Coach's Corner. That kaleidoscope suit he sported Wednesday was deadly — and not in a good way.

SWEET TWEETS

- "Rinne's glove hand is a black hole where scoring opportunities go to disintegrate" — Jason Botchford

- "Dumb Ballard. Should have hit him in the head. No one gets penalties for that anymore." — Mark Spector, Sportsnet, after Canucks D Keith Ballard was called for clipping on a hip check on Tootoo.

- "Reason 8 to not change naming rights to your arena. Cab driver still thinks it's called GM place and is confused when you say Rogers Arena — Josh Cooper, Nashville Predators beat writer

- "My buddy just joined twitter... @bfoleygold ... everyone chirp him for being built like Chris Farley but not being nearly as funny." — Oilers D Ryan Whitney

- "Heading over to TSN... everyone usually holds a pen so I might try switching it up and hold a breadstick #dippedinmarinara — Whitney on joining the TSN panel for games

- "Just think – right now, Colin Campbell is concocting new cockamamie apologist justifications for the carnage to come in the second round. — Adam Proteau, The Hockey News

THE LAST WORD

Never realized goaltenders were so prone to concussions, but between Jonas Hiller's inexplicable 'vertigo' and Ryan Miller announcing Thursday it was a head injury that kept him out late in the regular-season. It should come as no surprise that Leafs D Dion Phaneuf was one of the four shots Miller said contributed to it. Phaneuf has hurt plenty of NHLers with his bombs from the point — including than a few teammates.


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