By Amanda DiPaolo
Goaltender Pekka Rinne is a fan favorite among the Predators faithful. The Finnish native has quite literally stolen games, and therefore valuable points, away from opponents. For a team that doesn’t score a lot of goals, it is a lot of pressure to be near perfect every night.
Yet, Rinne doesn’t see the team’s lack of offense as adding any additional pressure on his game. “Not on my shoulders,” he said when asked about feeling the pressure. “I think last year was the same thing. We kind of went through stretches where we would score a lot of goals and then we’d go through a few games where we don’t really score goals. That’s how it seems to go right now.”
When asked about the lack of offensive productivity, Rinne took responsibility that wasn’t his to bear. “We just need to stay positive and believe that if we score a couple goals that is enough for the win. I just need to worry about my own thing and improve my game and be better.”
How much better can Rinne expect to be? In the last 5 games, Nashville has scored a sum total of 5 goals. Rinne has allowed 8 goals in regulation, including 3 in a fluky first period against Minnesota on Friday. Before Friday’s game, Rinne had allowed only four goals in Nashville’s previous four games, garnering a 0.96 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage in those games.
A season ago, Nashville was in the middle of the pack, ranked 18th in goals for, scoring an average of 2.65 goals per game. Rinne played 58 of 82 games, posting a 32-16-5-7 record. Allowing 137 goals for the season, Rinne had a .911 save percentage and had a 2.53 goals against average.
Through the first quarter of this season, Nashville ranks 28th in goals for, posting a 2.18 goals per game average. Only the Islanders and the Devils are worse off than the Predators in the scoring department. And Rinne’s numbers rank slightly better than those of last season, though his losses out number his wins. In 17 games played, Rinne has a 6-7-4-2 record, but has posted a 2.49 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Despite the impressive statistics, Rinne is not satisfied unless the team comes away with two points. “Every game you want to win. It’s disappointing when you lose division games. It doesn’t matter to me, a loss is a loss. It’s tough to get wins in this league and it is disappointing when you lose,” he said.
Nashville’s 6’5 netminder gets upset when the Predators lose. In fact, Rinne admits he takes a loss personally. “Yeah, absolutely. I think being a goalie, for myself, I take it very personally when I give up a goal. If we lose a game it is always tough to swallow. But that makes it just that more exciting. You get a lot when you win a game. It is a big relief and a big energy boost.”
Because Nashville’s team identity rests on defense first, the Predators play a lot of one-goal games, which could help explain that energy boost that comes with winning. The Predators went to the shootout for the fifth time in the last nine games on Saturday night against the Rangers, but suffered their second loss in the shootout this season. It was just the Predators third shootout loss since the Olympic Break a season ago. Rinne has stopped 33-of-40 attempts. His save percentage in the shootout rests at .770, which is third-best amongst active starting goaltenders.
Rinne and the Predators next take to the ice on tonight when the Phoenix Coyotes visit Bridgestone Arena. Game time is 7 pm CT.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is tonight when the Phoenix Coyotes come to town. Saturday night, the Carolina Hurricanes visit Nashville.