Once Pekka Rinne retires, he will go down as the best goaltender in Nashville Predators history and have his number-35 raised to the Bridgestone Arena rafters. His unconventional highlight reel saves on a nightly basis cannot be duplicated by another netminder in the league.
Since being a shockingly successful eighth round selection (258th overall) by the Predators in the 2004 NHL draft, Rinne has played in 381 career games, amassing a 204-115-43 record, a 2.36 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and 36 shutouts. The Kempele, Finland native has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender of the year, three times — 2011, 2012 and 2015 — but has yet to win the award.
Rinne has been spectacular throughout his career, but injuries have slowed him down the past three seasons.
In May 2013, Rinne underwent arthroscopic hip surgery, which kept him out for four months. After recovering just in time for the 2013-14 season and going 4-4-1 with a 2.31 GAA and a .917 save percentage to begin the year, he discovered an E. Coli infection in his surgically repaired hip that would sideline him until March. Rinne completed the 2014-15 season with a 10-10-3 record, a 2.77 GAA, a .902 save percentage and two shutouts in 24 games.
Though Rinne’s hip was luckily not a problem last season, a new issue arose in his knee. Rinne sprained it on Jan. 16, which caused him to miss eight games, amidst a season worthy of the Hart, awarded to the league’s most valuable player, and Vezina Trophies. He was never the same after the injury, posting a 12-11-4 record with a .915 save percentage following his return.
In efforts of lowering the risk of injury this season, the Predators already have a plan in place to lighten his workload.
Poile says he would like Rinne to play 65ish games next season and Hutton around 20 contests. #Preds
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) May 30, 2015
In addition to being injury prone in recent seasons, Rinne’s playoff performances can make anyone questions his “elite” status. He has an all-time 15-19 record, 2.68 GAA, .909 save percentage and zero shutouts in the postseason.
Proven elite goalies like Jonathan Quick, a two-time Stanley Cup winner for the Los Angeles Kings, and Henrik Lundqvist, who has led the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final or Eastern Conference Final in three of the past four years, are at their best in the playoffs. Quick is 45-31 all-time with a 2.22 GAA, a .923 save percentage and nine shutouts, and Lundqvist has a 54-56 record, a 2.22 GAA, a .923 save percentage and nine shutouts.
As everyone knows, playoffs are when it matters most.
Chicago Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford, arguably mediocre, is 45-29 all-time with a 2.23 GAA, a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in addition to winning two Stanley Cups. Though Crawford has a better supporting cast, Rinne gets paid $1 million more to account for that.
On November 3, Rinne turns 33 years old. If he is destined to win a Stanley Cup, it must come sooner rather than later.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.