Hey now, you’re an all-star. Get your game on, go play.
For Juuse Saros, these words can now be sung along to and hold new meaning. The 26-year-old netminder learned Thursday evening that he would be representing the Nashville Predators as the Central Division goaltender. It will be the first time for Saros, in just the first year as the Predators’ starting goaltender after Pekka Rinne’s illustrious career came to an end after the 2020-21 season.
Saros is in the midst of an excellent season thus far, earning a considerable amount of attention recently in Vezina discussions. While his notoriety among fans on the east coast isn’t well known yet, expect that to change soon now that he has been named to the All-Star game, which takes place in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 5th. He’s currently one of the best goaltenders in the league in terms of wins (20), save percentage (.927), shots faced (957), and saves (887). He remains top 10 in goals-against average (2.30) and remains one win behind Andrei Vasilevskiy for the league lead in that department.
An All-Star Like Rinne
Saros had behemoth-sized shoes to fill when Rinne announced his retirement. Capping off a 15-year career with the Predators, Rinne appeared in 683 games and posted a 369-213-75 record, earning 60 shutouts and making 17,627 saves. He also led the team into the playoffs 12 times in those 15 seasons, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 2016-17 season. While never achieving the pinnacle, Rinne’s contribution to the organization was more than enough to be honored by the club with a jersey retirement, scheduled for Feb. 22, 2022. Big shoes for Saros to fill, indeed.
In his first season as the Predators’ true number one, Saros currently sits with a 20-10-1 record and has appeared poised and ready for the call to action. At the age of 26, Saros has 96 wins, a career save % of .921, 107 quality starts, and 3 playoff wins to date. Compare that to when Rinne was 27, he had just 62 wins, a career save % of .914, 53 quality starts, and 2 playoff wins. If Saros can replicate the longevity we saw from Rinne, we may very well see another wave of Nashville goaltending that frustrates opposing teams for the next decade.
Before the 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 13th, Saros’ impressive track record extended to even before the start of the 2021-22 season. In his last 51 games, his 34 wins rank first among all goaltenders who have appeared in at least ten games during that stretch. His 2.07 GAA put rank him in fourth, while his SV% (.934), Even-strength SV% (.942), and goals saved above average (42.19) all rank him in the first place. His SV% among goaltenders who have played 100 games or more in the last three seasons (.923) also ranks him in first, ahead of the likes of Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck, two former Vezina-winning netminders.
Along with Saros, Cam Talbot joins the Central division squad, while Thatcher Demko and John Gibson will represent the Pacific division. Out in the Eastern Conference, Frederik Andersen and Tristan Jarry will play for the Metropolitan division while Vasilevskiy and Jack Campbell will suit up for the Atlantic division.
Saros becomes the third goaltender in Nashville’s history to represent the team at the All-Star Game, following Rinne (2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019) and Tomas Vokoun (2004).
Josi Potential as “Last Men In” Candidate
While Predators’ captain Roman Josi didn’t make the initial cut for the All-Star Game, he’ll have a chance to participate when fans vote the “Last Men In”, which officially started on Jan. 13th and will continue through until Jan. 17th, at 10:59 CT. Fans will be able to vote up to ten times in 24 hours and will have the opportunity to spread the love and attention over social media using the NHL-suggested hashtag #NHLAllStar.
Josi has appeared in three All-Star Games to date (2016, 2019, and 2020) and currently leads the Predators in points with 38 in 36 games. He also sits second among all NHL defensemen in points, goals (12) and is fourth in assists (26). Of his 38 points, half of them have come on the powerplay (7 goals, 12 assists), making him one of the league’s best performers while on the man advantage. His seven goals lead the league in that regard, and the 31-year-old blue-liner has shown no indication of slowing down any time soon. His stellar play and stable presence on the back-end have earned him heavy consideration for the Norris one again, which would make it his second time winning the award in the last three seasons.
Josi will be in good company among the Central division players also entering the Last Men In ballot. Names include Phil Kessel (Arizona Coyotes), Seth Jones (Chicago Blackhawks), Nazem Kadri (Colorado Avalanche), Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars), Ryan Hartman (Minnesota Wild), Robert Thomas (St. Louis Blues), and Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets).
Will Saros and Josi be united at the All-Star Game festivities on Feb. 5th? Only time will tell, but Predators fans around the globe have that power to start stuffing the ballot box with a name that should already be attending the dance. For now, rejoice over the fact that Saros has earned this incredible honour. Some may see this as a meaningless game of pond hockey, but for most, it’s a sign that the league is starting to recognise just how big a star Saros is becoming.
Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)