Carter Hutton made just his ninth start of the season in the Nashville Predators’ 56th game of the season, notching a 22-save shutout in a 5-0 victory versus the Florida Panthers Saturday evening. It marked Hutton’s second shutout of the season, tying Pekka Rinne.
Hutton only started in net because Rinne and the Predators played the night before in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Ontario native has looked great this season. In Hutton’s last three starts, he is 3-0-0 with a 0.34 goals-against average, a 0.987 save-percentage and two shutouts. He is 6-2-1 with a 2.10 GAA and a 0.924 save-percentage on the season.
However, head coach Peter Laviolette has been reluctant to give Hutton more starts since Rinne is the backbone of the Predators. When Rinne plays well so do the Preds.
As of late, though, Rinne has been underwhelming. He is 20-18-8 with a 2.57 GAA and a .902 save-percentage this season. In his previous four starts, he is 1-2-1 with a 4.02 GAA and a 0.838 save-percentage.
By no means is this a call for a goalie controversy in Nashville. Rather, a call for a new approach to the rotation. Statistics hardly lie, and Hutton has been the better goaltender lately.
“This year, I’m just controlling what I can and not worry about if I play,” said Hutton last month. “I can’t control that. I can just control coming in here with a good attitude. When I do get a chance, I will try to help the team win.”
Nashville should implement a two-goalie rotation where Laviolette goes with the hot hand on a nightly basis. Not only does it give the Predators the best opportunity to win on a game-by-game basis, but it will also push Rinne to be better.
There have been rumblings about the Predators possibly seeking a goaltender like James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs to solidify the crease. But why? You do not have to look any further than Hutton, who has been nothing short of fantastic in his backup role.
Hutton has played well enough to earn more starts, and it is time for the Predators to reward him.