Pekka Rinne, Vezina finalist. Doesn’t sound too absurd now, does it?
The Nashville Predators #1 goaltender, much like his team, has been absolutely fantastic of late. Thursday’s 5-1 win in Colorado was the team’s ninth in their last 11 games and Rinne’s 16th on the season.
The 28-year old Finn trails only Boston’s Tim Thomas in terms of save percentage and goals-against average across the National Hockey League, sporting remarkable numbers since returning from injury in late December. Thomas, of course, remains the home-run trophy favourite at this stage.
That his strong numbers have coincided with an upswing in the Preds scoring fortunes should seldom come as a slight on Rinne’s workload. Just twice in the last eight games has Rinne been asked to make less than 30 saves, notably topping 40 in wins over San Jose and Anaheim respectively.
Rinne’s displayed a consistency and calmness in net that’s brushed off on the team’s previously gun-shy offense. A product of the system I hear you say? Well, in part. The Predators play a tight, efficient defensive game, but that shouldn’t detract from the volume of shots nor quality of saves that Rinne has had to make.
To his credit, the form of Anders Lindback could perhaps be one reason for Rinne’s stellar play. Never underestimate the effect a good backup can have, particularly one playing as consistently as Lindback did during a stretch of starts in December.
With Rinne sidelined for most of the month owing to an injured left knee, Lindback found himself starting a stretch of nine straight games in December. Outside of a 6-1 shellacking at home to the LA Kings – say “hey“ Mark Dekanich – the 6”6’ Swede pulled in a respectable 6-2-1 record, giving up just 17 goals through nine games.
Much like Henrik Lundqvist, Jonas Hiller and Cam Ward, Rinne has been a key ingredient in maintaining his teams fortunes through the midway point of the regular season. He’s been consistent in a way that all great goaltenders need to be and has rarely, if ever, cost them a game this season.
Of course, we’re only talking about a nomination here – a little recognition for a small corner of the NHL that often gets incorrectly forgotten amidst the big cities and bright lights. Rinne is having an exceptional season, one he must aim to continue if his team is to make any semblance of noise come the post-season… y’know, when the real silverware is handed out.