TORONTO– The time is now for Jussi Rynnas if he wants to solidify the number-one spot in net for the Toronto Marlies.
The 25-year-old goaltender has spent the last three seasons with the Marlies, mostly playing back-up behind, first, James Reimer and then Ben Scrivens.
With Reimer and Scrivens now making up the Maple Leafs tandem in goal, Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins will be turning to the Finnish netminder to carry the work load. And as long as he can handle it, the number-one job is his.
“For a long time he’s had to take a back seat to Ben Scrivens, he’s been waiting for this chance and I know he wants it. He’s a guy full of pride,” said Eakins. “Is Jussi the number-one now? Absolutely, but that can change very quickly.”
“He needs to stop pucks, needs to be counted on by his teammates and give a sense of calm when he’s in the net,” Eakins added.
Rynnas has appeared in 11 games this season and statistically he is having his best year in the AHL. But in the past he has battled with inconsistent play, injuries and the inability to move up on the Leafs’ depth chart. And even now he will have to out play Swedish goaltender Mark Owuya, who was recalled from the ECHL when Scrivens joined the Leafs, if he wants to be the every-day starter.
“Right now there’s a chance to play, but at the same time there’s Mark,” said Rynnas. “So I have to play good and show the coaches I am good enough to carry the team. This is my third year so everything is feeling easier for me. Everything is working right now and maybe I am playing my best hockey.”
At times last season Rynnas was outplayed by Owuya, which led to only 22 starts behind Scrivens. But, Owuya has struggled at times this year and Rynnas believes he has come far enough to give his club what they need night in and night out.
“My first year a bad day was seven goals or five goals (against),” said Rynnas. “Right now a bad day is only three goals and we have a chance to win.”
Through his first two seasons in Toronto, Rynnas, sometimes, has had to work on his confidence. He still shows frustration when a puck gets past him, but the addition of goaltender coach Rick St. Croix seems to be helping him.
“I think he’s helping me a lot, he’s giving me good tips and one good thing I like about Rickie is he keeps my confidence high,” said Rynnas. “He’s positive guy.”
Being the starter for the Marlies not only means Rynnas has an opportunity to carry a team that was first in the Western Conference when Scrivens left, but it also means he’s one injury away from being called up to the NHL.
“I don’t think about that,” said Rynnas. “I just want to get my game working here and if it did happen I want to be ready.”
Rynnas is 6-4-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .933 save percentage so far this season behind Scrivens. He is expected to get the start on Thursday when the Marlies face the Lake Erie Monsters.