Predators’ Goalie Situation: Calm Down, People

Following the Predators’ rough 5-2 defeat in Detroit on Saturday, fans took to Twitter to express their displeasure with the goalie situation in the wake of Pekka Rinne’s injury. Backup goalie Carter Hutton gave up three goals in the first period, and was pulled. Marek Mazanec came in, and played pretty well, given the bad situation. The general sentiment from Twitter can be summed up thusly: trade for a veteran goaltender, NOW!

The Predators were coming off a statement victory over the Capitals (which some fans seemed to forget quite quickly), and Carter Hutton was playing his second game in 24 hours. This was a tired and emotionally drained team. Even with a healthy Pekka Rinne, the Predators probably wouldn’t have won that game.

So, to all those Predators fans who are freaking out over the goaltender situation in Nashville: calm down, please.

The Predators are 1-1 following the Rinne injury. They have one more game before the All-Star break, on Tuesday night in Montreal. The logical decision would be to give Mazanec the start, but it may behoove Laviolette to give Hutton the vote of confidence and the start. Montreal is a strong team, and it will be a tough game. But, even last year, the Predators found a way to win, a la Seth Jones’ game-winner.

There is no reason to panic if you’re a Predators fan. Nashville is still atop the Central Division by a few points, and still have a high-octane offense with breakout rookie Filip Forsberg, a rejuvenated Colin Wilson, an up-and-coming stud in Craig Smith, and “The Real Deal” James Neal. No matter what goalie is in net, the Predators can shoot the puck with ease, and score a lot.

Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec can step up and fill the void left by Pekka Rinne for a few weeks. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hutton and Mazanec are both solid goaltenders. Hutton has struggled so far this year, but to be fair, he has had a tired team in front of him, as most of his starts were on the back end of back-to-back games. Mazanec has yet to start this season, but looked strong in a bad Detroit game. If he can get his game back to the way it was in November of 2013, when he was named NHL rookie of the month, he could salvage some games that would otherwise be losses.

If the Predators were to acquire another goalie, it would be far too costly. The logical choice would be Martin Brodeur, currently on the St. Louis Blues, but the asking price would probably include 2015 draft picks and potentially a prospect, and that would be too much, considering the nature of what Brodeur’s role would be in Nashville. Giving up a second round pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory for a two-week rental is a ridiculous notion.

The Predators trust Hutton and Mazanec, but should either of them flame out, there is one other option waiting in Milwaukee: Magnus Hellberg. The 23-year-old Swede has been a standout with the Admirals, posting a 1.75 GAA and 11 wins, on his way to an AHL All-Star nomination. He could easily step in and make his NHL debut should it become necessary.

Pekka Rinne will hopefully be back in early February, if his recovery goes well. Even if he is out a little longer, as this chart from Reddit shows, the Predators will be alright.

Assuming the Predators win half of their games, they will remain atop the Central Division, barring a sudden crazy hot streak in Chicago or St. Louis.

So, let’s all preach calmness in Nashville. Pekka Rinne is the best goalie in the world, but the Predators are not dead without him. Not in the least. He also won’t be out for too long, should his recovery progress nicely. At the worst, he’ll be back in mid-to-late February, just in time for a push to the playoffs, and perhaps a Central Division crown.

Take a deep breath, Preds fans. Your team is fine. Believe it.