Nashville Predators: Contrary To Popular Belief, Rinne Is Not The Problem

(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators aren’t perfect. We all knew that, but some of us are pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction.

Thursday night was not a great night for Nashville Predators fans. Hockey was back, but the Predators didn’t know it for two & a half periods. It seemed like the ice was tilted with the Boston Bruins playing downhill. Pekka Rinne had to try to keep things manageable for his teammates.

As usual, Pekka made some tremendous saves and did his best to make things manageable.

As much as things have changed in Nashville recently, Pekka has been the one constant. Number 35 sits in front of the goal & gives the Predators a chance to win pretty much any game he starts. I, for one, can’t imagine him not being there.

For whatever reason, some disagree. This whole article will sound like I’m picking on Justin Jefferies. I apologize to JJ, but he’s far from the only person to express this sentiment. The whole idea of moving on from Pekka Rinne makes no sense to me. When you think Predators you think Pekka.

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Thursday night was another example. He was the only reason they were close. He got little to no help from many of his teammates. Michael Wade did a good job of pointing that out. An entire line & defensive pairing were useless on Thursday night. As long as that’s a problem, you better have Pekka Rinne.

If you take a look at the Bruins’ goals on Thursday night, there isn’t a lot to put on Pekka. The first was on a 5 on 3. The second one he maybe should have had. The third one was sick, and the fourth was an empty netter. Hell, if Pekka had stayed on the ice a minute longer the game probably goes to overtime.

There are some complaints about Pekka. Let’s address them.

He makes too much money!

Rinne’s $7,000,000 cap hit is the third-biggest among goalies in the NHL, tied with Tuukka Rask and behind Henrik Lundqvist & Sergei Bobrovsky. I can understand the discontent. As a Cincinnati Reds fan, I know how worked up fans get over players that make money. Joey Votto has some of the best seasons in baseball history. Reds fans are mad at him because of his contract. It’s so stupid.

What wasn’t stupid was Pekka’s contract. It made all the sense in the world back in 2011. It’s easy to forget what things were like back when Pekka signed his extension. Nashville wasn’t exactly flush with name talent. It wasn’t a destination for free agents. Re-signing Rinne was the first step of Nashville management’s plan to keep their core of Rinne, Shea Weber & Ryan Suter together.

That didn’t quite work out. Suter left for the Minnesota Wild that off-season. Weber stuck around only because Nashville matched an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers. Rinne stayed. One thing Nashville management hasn’t had to worry about in the past decade is goaltending.

Perhaps they didn’t worry enough. I liked Carter Hutton more than most, but he was never a threat to Pekka. It seems like Nashville has finally found Rinne’s eventual replacement.

Juuse Saros is the answer!

I really hope this is true. Juuse Saros‘ .923 save percentage & 2.35 GAA in 21 regular season games was a big step up from what Predators fans are used to from Pekka’s backup. Does that mean we’re ready to crown him as the Chosen One? I’d pump the brakes on that. He struggled during the preseason & is still only 22 years old. He’s got some growing to do.

It’d really be nice if he had a growth spurt, actually. Let’s be real. 5’11 & 180 is not an ideal height & weight for a goalie. You need a big body to help cover that net.

Pekka’s getting older & deteriorating!

Is he? When I look at the statistics I’m not so sure. His .918 save percentage in 2016-17 was his fourth best season. His 2.42 GAA was his fifth best. His 7 Really Bad Starts? Tied for his worst. I love how that’s a stat. Maybe goalies are like NFL running back & wide receivers and magically turn to crap at a certain age. I don’t think Pekka’s there yet.

The Nashville Predators are not a perfect team. We saw that on Thursday night. The defense outside of the top four is shaky. The forwards outside of the JOFA line are very inconsistent. The goaltending doesn’t make my list of top five things to worry about.

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That being said, Pekka does struggle in Pittsburgh. So if we see Saros tonight, I won’t be mad.