Trotz's foreboding about Washington turns out to be correct. Troy Brouwer beats his goalie stick side late in the period with a 20-footer from the slot, a shot that goes through Predators center Mike Fisher's legs and ticks under the crossbar. But Rinne foils 39 others, a panoply of puck-stopping that includes saves on tips, wicked one-timers and a Jason Chimera breakaway. Rinne can make all the plays even if he has plateaued since that 3--1 win. He has a pedestrian .911 save percentage in 24 subsequent games.
Rinne, like Robinson, also was a baseball player. Of sorts. He played pesäpallo, Finnish baseball, the caffeinated cousin of the Orioles' third baseman's game. Pesäpallo helped develop Rinne's hand-eye coordination, which he retained even when a teenage growth spurt temporarily turned him into first-team all-klutz. He now stands 6'5", an inch shorter than Lindback. Rinne is matchstick thin and Arctic Circle pale, a wraith out of his goalie equipment. "I saw pictures of myself in the Vancouver series," Rinne says. "I looked like a skeleton." He struggles to keep more than 200 pounds on his frame. Still, his bony shoulders will be expected to carry Nashville for the next decade.
In a world in which nobody knows anything, Rinne, currently rated 14th, with a .920 save percentage, could be a genuine Harry Neale 75 percenter as he backstops a franchise whose ambitions have grown with his. Hockey's Next Tall Thing, and perhaps big thing, once aspired to little more than a comfortable career in the Finnish Elite League. Now he hopes to replicate the Bieksa save, only in an even more critical game—say a Stanley Cup final.
"After we've done some great things in Nashville, maybe I'll look back and see just how far I've come," he says. "But right now I'll just roll with it." Like an Ovechkin snapper, life, Rinne says, "can happen pretty fast." Just like the NHL's spinning goalie wheel of fortune.