Pekka Rinne has allowed just three goals in his last three games. (PHOTO: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Pekka Rinne: Nashville's Atlas

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne

Pekka Rinne has been perfect at even strength for three straight games now. (PHOTO: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Pekka Rinne is the linchpin of the Nashville Predators’ plan for a winning season. Despite the occasional six-goal outburst, the team’s offensive firepower is mostly limited to the top two lines. Even those players can be very streaky, meaning there’s often not a lot of goal support to go around. When the offense sputters, the defense is there to keep the team afloat. And when the defense fails, there’s a big man carrying the team on his shoulders, saying, “We’re going to win this game.”

Atlas at Rockefeller CenterPekka Rinne is the Nashville Predators’ Atlas.

In ancient Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan who fought against Zeus and the other Olympian gods in a ten-year war called the Titanomachy. The Olympians won the Titanomachy and banished the most dangerous Titans to Tartarus, a realm of suffering and torment below the sky, the earth, and the sea. For Atlas, Zeus and company reserved a special job: he would forever stand at the western edge of the Earth and hold the Sky upon his shoulders, so the two could never again meet.

Titanic in proportion at six feet and five inches tall, Pekka Rinne stands in the crease, holding his team’s defense up to keep their opponent’s offense and the goal forever separate. The Nashville Predators defense rests upon his shoulders, ensuring there’s always a backup plan in place during even its worst lapses. The Predators win games they shouldn’t, and win others by bigger margins than they probably should, because of his constancy in net. It’s safe to say that without Pekka Rinne the Preds’ defense wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Nashville’s Atlas had a rough start to this season. He lost three straight shootouts, which he’s on the record saying he takes more personally than other losses. In two other games the offense couldn’t score a single goal, hanging him out to dry. Just a week ago he was without a win in six starts and his team’s record was an ugly 1-2-3.

Since the third period of the final shutout loss to Phoenix on January 28th, Rinne hasn’t allowed a goal at even strength. Of the last 16 times Nashville’s opponents have had power plays, 13 have ended without a goal being scored. He has shut down some of the hottest scorers in the league in San Jose and St. Louis and made it look easy.

Those performances have earned him three wins in a row, during which time he has compiled a 0.95 GAA and .963 save percentage. That’s the Vezina Trophy candidate Nashville Predators fans are familiar with, frustrating opponents and carrying the Nashville Predators defense on his back. If Pekka Rinne can continue to defend the net successfully at even half his current pace, things will begin to look up for the Preds in a hurry.

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