When Pekka Rinne was taken out of the game against the Vancouver Canucks on January 13, Predators fans saw their worst fear realized: Their All-Star goalie, the MVP, the heart and soul of the team had been injured. Two days later the announcement was made that he wouldn’t be coming back for 3-5 weeks, out with a knee injury. Fans prayed, cried, tried voodoo magic, and drank away their sorrows down on Broadway.
What could be worse than the team’s clear-cut MVP going down for a month? Well, after pondering this for a while and after I sat down my drink and voodoo doll, I realized something: this is in fact, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.
Peter Laviolette has ridden his star net-minder hard so far this season. Rinne had started 37 of a possible 42 games for Nashville when he got hurt. Even though he’s no stranger to a heavy workload (he started 73 games during the 2011-2012 season), that’s still a lot of games for a goaltender.
While Rinne may be up to the task, it certainly begged the question of whether or not he could keep that kind of play up for a full season and a possible deep playoff run. Even though Barry Trotz did the same thing just a couple of years ago, is now the time to play with fire? Rinne isn’t far removed from a bad stretch (for him) that lasted from January of 2013 through the end of last season.
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Is now really the time to push him to his limits? We’ve all seen him do it before, but the smart bet would seem to be taking it a bit easier on the guy and making sure he’s healthy and rested. Well now there’s no option.
Rinne is definitely out another 1-3 weeks. Guaranteed time off. That’s time for him to rest and recover from the first half of the season. The Predators will be just fine without him. They should make the playoffs no matter how many games he misses. This just gives him a chance to rest up for a month, clear his mind, heal his body, and come back 100% ready for the stretch run.
The rest of the Predators also get a chance to find out what they’re made of. They’ve won exactly one game without Rinne in net and now they’re going to have to play a minimum of six more games without him. They are about to find out what they’re truly made of as a hockey team over this stretch and are going to have to learn to win without their safety net, uh, in net.
Don’t for one minute think that this is a bad thing. They are going to win a few, and hopefully most, of these games. They’re scoring 3.44 goals per game so far in January. You’re going to win plenty of games throwing up almost 3 1/2 goals every night no matter who your goalie is. In the absolute worst case scenario, if Rinne (God-forbid) goes down again later in the season or playoffs, Hutton will be able to fill in and already have a feel for playing with this team in front of him.
We may end up looking back at the 2014-2015 season and realize that Rinne’s injury was the catalyst that propelled this Nashville Predators team from being a very good hockey club into a great one in building more and more confidence for the team in front of him while injured, or the Achilles heal. So, you can stop the crying, you can stop your sad drinking,
I can stop the voodoo, and you can stop talking about how the season may take a massive stumble. This season ain’t over, folks. It just got fun.
Stats via NHL.com