Nashville Predators: Rinne needs to step up as Predators improve

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: Pekka Rinne
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: Pekka Rinne /

With 35 days until Nashville Predators hockey returns to Smashville, what should we expect from Pekka Rinne this season? In one word: improvement.

After a superstar post season, the biggest question on Nashville Predators fans minds is, what will Pekka Rinne look like this season?

The simple answer to this question is that nobody really knows. Rinne has been the backbone of the Nashville Predators since 2008. He’s been one of the best in the league at times, and at others, he’s had fans and analysts thinking maybe he should hang up the skates. In his 496 NHL starts, Rinne has won 269 games. Not too shabby, for a goalie whose team was mediocre at best for many years. Rinne was solid for Nashville for many years, but I’m going to focus on his most recent seasons, as they give the best indicator of what to expect from the 34-year-old goalie.

Last Three Seasons

In his last three seasons, Pekka has been up and down. He’s played the last three full years which is great, as his body is healthy, and no longer plagued by injuries that held him to limited action from 2012-2014. Rinne has won 41, 34, and 31 games each of his last three seasons.

Notice the trend?

While not that bad, the wins are declining, while the Predators are getting better. Not what we want to see…

Similarly, Rinne has had three of his four worst career years, in goals allowed. His GAA has risen, his quality starts are dropping, and he is losing more OT and shootout games than ever before.


Maybe the beloved #35 isn’t really superman after all. Age is clearly starting to affect his game.

What Did We See This Postseason?

To put it simply, we saw a super-goalie in net during the playoffs. Pekka hushed every critic in the world, as he put on a spectacle in net this spring. In 22 games, Rinne won 14, had a .930 save percentage, a 1.96 GAA, 16 quality starts, 2 shutouts, and 0 shootout or OT losses.

More from Predlines

The 2016-playoff Pekka Rinne was the Pekka Rinne Predator fans have dearly missed. He was on fire all the way from the puck drop in Chicago in Game 1 of Round 1, until the last buzzer of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup in Smashville.

Did the Predators come up short? Yes. Did Rinne have his weak moments? A few here and there.

Overall though, Rinne was what kept Nashville in the playoffs. The Predators suffered from multiple significant injuries, yet, Rinne always showed up and played like a superstar. With all the moving pieces around him, #35 played like a truly great leader and goalie, as he put on a run for the ages.

What Will We See This Season?

Honestly, no one knows. Clearly, Rinne is showing signs of aging. But of course he is. He is a 34 year old goalie in arguably the most physically taxing game in sports.

The regular season statistics don’t look good, as his play is slowly declining. However, this past postseason gives fans hope, as Rinne flashed 22 games worth of dominance to the world, on the biggest stage in hockey.

Rinne’s play is key to the Nashville Predators success this season. Sure the defense is great, and the forwards are talented, but when it comes down to it, goaltending wins Stanley Cups.

Expectations are higher than ever for the 2017-2018 Nashville Predators, but with a young team, it might take time to mesh and form the necessary chemistry. The Predators historically take a few months to really turn it on, so until the Predators hit full stride, Pekka must play like he did in the playoffs. He must make the game changing saves, and give his team a chance to win.

Even if they shouldn’t.

Next: Nashville Predators: Forsberg, Johansen in NHL’s Top 50 current players

No pressure Pekka, but the season rides on you.

35 days until the boys in gold are back in Smashville. Go Predators.