Pekka Rinne has been the MVP of not just the Nashville Predators this season, but arguably the NHL. But with the Finish netminder out for the next 3-5 weeks, the team will have to weather the storm without him.
The Predators sit amongst their Western Conference foes the Anaheim Ducks for top spot in the NHL standings with 64 points. They are currently on pace for a 122 point season which would be the team’s highest total in franchise history.
Rinne Has Been a Stud
Rinne no question, has been the catalyst for the team’s success this season. The 32-year-old leads the NHL wiith a 1.96 goals against average (the only goalie under 2.00), he has the third-highest save percentage at .931%, and is number one in wins this season with 29, five more than the second place Jaroslav Halak. The Predators also sit first in the league in goals against at 2.19 per game.
Preds Are Also an Offensive Threat
However, as great as Rinne has been, he is not the only reason why the Predators have been so good. In fact the team has been one of the league’s most offensive teams as well. The Preds have the third-best 5-on-5 shooting percentage, firing at 9.05%. The team averages the fourth most shots per game with 31.9 per night and has fourth most goals per game with 3.02 per game.
The Predators have also been able to play a very good possession game as well. The team has the eighth best Corsi-for percent at 52% and also have the ninth best Fenwick-for percent at 52.3%. The Preds also allow the 12th fewest shots against per game at 28.8 per game. And when you have Rinne playng as well as he is, allowing fewer than 30 shots against per game makes scoring against the team that much harder.
Can They Win Without Rinne?
What does worry some about the Predators is that before their 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals Friday night, Rinne had been between the pipes for every single win the team had had this season. However, that also has a lot to do with the fact that Rinne has played in 37 of the team’s 43 games. Carter Hutton has appeared in just seven games and has only started in six games for the Preds this season.
Hutton has a 1-3-2 record and has a 2.66 GAA, which is not great but not terrible, and a .907 SP. What is important to know is that Hutton is in just his second season in the NHL as a backup goalie. He filled in for Rinne last year when the team’s number one went down with another injury and in 40 games put up an impressive 20-11-4 record. He tallied a .910 SP and 2.62 GAA, but unfortunately the team still missed the post season.
Not Going to Fall Out of Playoffs
Early reports are that the Rinne will miss 10 games due to his injury, so nine following the team’s win Wednesday. Some suggest that the Preds should make a deal to find a more proven goaltender to bring in while the team continues to play without Rinne. However, the team is high enough in the standings that the move, might not be needed.
The Preds have played 43 games this season, which is tied for the fewest in the Western Conference and it would take the Preds losing all nine games and a team outside the playoff picture to win nine straight to bump them outside of the playoff picture. As mentioned before the team has the offensive fire power to be competitive and don’t necessarily rely solely on Rinne to win. Also consider that prior to their loss to the Predators on Friday, the Caps had gone 7-0-2 in their last nine games, so the team was able to beat one of the league’s hottest teams without Rinne. So it might be in the team’s best interest to weather the storm without Rinne instead of giving up assets that they might not need to.
Pekka Rinne was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy during the 2011 season, narrowly missing out to Tim Thomas after receiving 56% of the vote. This season he looks like the consensus to win the award this time around. The 32-year-old is leading the Preds to their best season ever, but over the next few weeks, don’t expect the team to fall off the earth without him.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.