Rinaldo impacting the Flyers in several positive ways, including drawing penalties.
PHILADELPHIA – Jarome Iginla will end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame once his playing days are done.
That doesn’t impress Zac Rinaldo.
Nope, to Rinaldo, Iginla is just another target. Another player, not wearing Flyers’ colors who needs to be separated from the puck.
So, when Rinaldo had him in his sights during a shift in the game against Boston Sunday, he wanted to make sure he hit him clean and hard.
So he did. And he took out Iginla, Bruins teammate David Krejci and linesman Greg Devorski as well.
Iginla didn’t like it, got up, cross-checked Rinaldo and proceeded to come up on the wrong end of a quick fight against the scrappy Flyers forward.
It’s a trade off the Flyers are happy to take though, as the Bruins lose one of their top scoring players for five minutes.
It was just the latest in a series of successful plays by Rinaldo in getting opposing players off the ice.
And it’s not just via fighting.
Rinaldo, whose game has started to develop well beyond being a pest, has drawn 26 penalties this season, which is tied for 37th most in the NHL.
Considering more than 850 players have played games in the NHL this season, that’s a decent figure, but not one that necessarily jumps off the page. Not when the leader is Corey Perry of Anaheim, who has drawn 43 penalties.
Nor has Rinaldo drawn the most penalties on his own team. Claude Giroux sits atop that list with 35. Scott Hartnell (33), Wayne Simmonds (30) and Steve Downie (26) are also tied with or ahead of Rinaldo.
Then why bring it up?
Well, Rinaldo averages only 8:36 of ice time per game. It’s the most of his career, but is hardly close to any of the aforementioned players.
Which means that drawing 26 penalties in just 487 minutes of ice time this season is pretty frequent. How often? Well, it would be 3.2 penalties drawn per 60 minutes played.
Where does that rank him in the NHL?
How about fifth.
That’s right, only Rich Clune of Nashville (4.7), Luke Gazdic of Edmonton (4.0) and Daniel Carcillo (3.4) and Derek Dorsett (3.3) of the New York Rangers get more opponents to the penalty box in their time on the ice than Rinaldo, based on a minimum of 25 penalties drawn.
Perry, who has drawn the most penalties, averages just 1.8 per 60 minutes. (On a side note, Sidney Crosby, who is often assumed to “always get the calls” from officials averages only 0.7 penalties drawn per 60 minutes, second-fewest among players with 25 or more penalties drawn. Yep. Surprised me too.)
Of course, of the six players who draw three penalties or more per 60 minutes (also includes Washington’s Tom Wilson – 3.2) only Carcillo draws a higher percentage of minor penalties.
In other words, 47 percent of Clune’s penalties drawn are the result of fighting majors. For Gazdic it’s 58 percent. For Wilson it’s 43 percent. Dorsett is 35 percent.
Only seven of the 26 penalties drawn by Rinaldo (27 percent) have been as part of a fighting major. (Carcillo is 21 percent).
“Zac’s becoming a real player,” said Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who has served a s a bit of a mentor for Rinaldo. “A couple years ago people didn’t see that in him. He believed though that he was more than just a guy who runs around out there and he’s become a real effective player for our team.”
|Zac Rinaldo is growing into a more integral part of the Flyers lineup.|
Rinaldo chalks up his success to two things – his skating ability and his skin-burrowing.
“Some guys can’t handle my speed and they just need to hook me down or bring me down in some way,” Rinaldo said. “I thank my speed for it.
“Some penalties are different though. Some penalties are because of frustration. I hit a guy hard and he retaliates sometimes, but I think about 70 percent of the penalties I draw are because of my speed and they need to pull me down.”
There’s no question that Rinaldo is a fast skater – and that it’s one of his greatest assets. But his play has improved significantly this season, and with that has come more responsibility.
“He gets under the other team’s skin,” Laperriere said. “He hits hard and he hits clean. He plays on a very fine line, but he’s really good at it. He used to take bad penalties last season, but he’s learned from doing that and because of that he’s becoming a very effective player on our team.”
He’s getting more minutes. He’s not being rooted to the bench for the entire third period. He’s playing at a level that is making him a player that can be relied in more regularly.
“When Chief gave him a bigger role than he had before – letting him kill penalties – that’s when the change happened,” Laperriere said. “He’s not killing the penalties now, but when you’re coach gives you more responsibility, as a player it’s very flattering. I remember that from when I played. And when there is more responsibility he wants to play better to thank his coach.
“The thing about Zac is he keeps wanting to get better and better and he’s doing that now. He’s still young and we have a lot of trust in him.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
(statistics courtesy of extraskater.com)