The National Hockey League released the list of Vezina Trophy nominees on Friday and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was on the list with Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Minnesota Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk.
Rinne Runs Out to Fast Start
Pekka Rinne set a blistering pace early in the season by putting up some ridiculous numbers. Rinne was one of the main reasons that Nashville was one of the surprise teams in the 2014-15 season.
He was one of the early favorites for the Vezina and there was some talk that Rinne was on the shortlist for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Rinne had a save percentage of .929 (.939 in even-strength situations). He racked up 26 wins and had a goals against average of 2.00.
We all know that Rinne was expected to be good and help the Predators get back into the postseason, but no one thought he would be this good early in the season.
Injury Slows Rinne
Things were going well for Rinne, but a knee injury slowed his march to picking up some hardware. He returned early in February to help the Predators make a charge at the President’s Trophy. Nashville stayed in the race with the help of Carter Hutton, but the team was glad to see Rinne return.
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However, Rinne and the Predators struggled down the stretch with multiple six-game losing streaks that cost them the Central Division title. There was some talk that Coach Peter Laviolette should sit Rinne down and save him for the stretch run.
Rinne has always taken the lion’s share of the time in net, but some wanted Carter Hutton to finish out the regular season. However, Pekka Rinne stuck it out and helped Nashville keep second place and a home-ice matchup against Chicago.
Pekka Rinne Rises to Challenge
Rinne was slowed by an injury in the second half, but he’s shown Vezina-winning form in this opening round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s made some big saves in key spots to keep Nashville in the series.
The Blackhawks thought they solved Rinne by getting a 3-1 series lead, but he’s made some key stops to keep the Predators in most of the games.
He’s picked up the slack in the overtime losses, but those defeats were hardly his fault. Rinne has averaged has averaged just over 32 saves in the five games played. He made 38 saves in the double overtime loss in game one and stopped 45 shots in the triple overtime loss in game four at Chicago.
Rinne made save after save in the multiple overtime periods to keep the Predators. However, this save on Marian Hossa late in third made sure that the game got to go into its long marathon.
Rinne and Scott Darling have put on a show in some of the games, but Rinne has more playoff experience. Pekka Rinne will be tasked with having the Predators live to die another day.
Rinne may have been outshined by Price and Dubnyk, but there’s no doubt that Rinne deserved the nomination. Sometimes an individual honor can boost a goalie, and we all know what a hot goalie can do.
Winning at the United Center can be a tall order, but someone like Pekka Rinne can carry a team like he has in previous games. The Predators will have to manage without their captain Shea Weber, but Rinne is a proven leader.
Will Pekka Rinne win the Vezina? I don’t foresee it happening, but he can keep his team in the running for the only trophy that really matters. The Stanley Cup.
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Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.