Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne Should Remain Game 4 Starter

DENVER, CO - APRIL 16: Goaltender Pekka Rinne
DENVER, CO - APRIL 16: Goaltender Pekka Rinne /

We finally saw that the Nashville Predators are not immortal, and are capable of having bad games. Mashing the panic button is a massive overreaction.

It took over two calendar years, but the Nashville Predators have lost a game to the  Colorado Avalanche. Another slow start by the Predators in combination with a red-hot start by Colorado ends up telling the story of Game 3. Playing collectively your worst game of the season in Game 3 of the playoffs is definitely not ideal.

The biggest story from the game is obviously the pulling of Pekka Rinne in the second period. He had given up four goals on just 15 shots. To make matters worse, the trend of quick strikes from Colorado continued as they scored on their second shot on goal of the game. In the previous two games, Colorado has scored on the first shot on goal of the game. Disturbing to say the least.

We need to keep things in perspective. The Predators are facing a hungry team that’s already out-performing most people’s expectations. They have zero pressure on them, but their top line is living up to the hype. Nathan MacKinnon is making everyone recognize why he’s a Hart Trophy candidate. However, the Predators are still the superior team with a 2-1 series lead. Making panic roster moves after simply one bad games has no merit, especially when it concerns Rinne.

Making the case for Pekka

You can’t just focus on the four goals allowed by Rinne. He deserves steak dinners from his teammates for the entire offseason after that poor defensive effort that was played in front of him. Take a look at where the goals were scored on the ice from Natural Stat Trick, as shared by Adam Vingan of the Tennessean:

We all want Rinne to be an unstoppable force every game, but that’s not going to happen. It takes a solid defensive effort in front of him as well. That’s especially true when you’re defending talented, fast scorers like Mackinnon and his top line. Here’s what Roman Josi had to say about the effort in the first period, from the Predators team website:

"“We deserve what we got. We didn’t really show up in the first period.”"

You have to leave that panic button alone. Adjustments will be made to set Rinne up for a better game. He’ll settle down a reassert himself as the top Vezina candidate. If he follows up Game 3 with another three or four goals given up in the first period, then we can have a serious conversation. However, yanking him out after a single terrible performance by the entire team makes zero sense.

I will say that Rinne is due for one of his shutdown performances, and I will not be surprised if it comes in Game 4. He’s been on bigger stages and against bigger pressure than this. Also, don’t have such a short memory on his key saves in the first two games. The Predators might be in much bigger trouble and trailing in the series if not for his several clutch saves in the first two games.

Saros is a good problem to have

When it comes to Saros, he’s the equivalent of having a great backup quarterback. He’s the heir apparent to Rinne, but that doesn’t mean we back the bus over Rinne. You’re playing with fire if you thrust Saros into the starting role for the next game. There’s no turning back at that point, meaning you’ve moved on from Rinne.

How ironic would that be? Rinne might very well win the Vezina Trophy, but you’re benching him after one bad game in a series that you’re still ahead in. See how that makes no logical sense?

Saros stopped all 18 shots he faced after coming in for Rinne. He’s proven he’s a great reliever when the train goes off the tracks. That still doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have had the same outcome if he was the starter of this game. Again, the Predators defense was destroyed by the Colorado attack. The Avalanche looked like they wanted it more and sprung right out of the gate. That’s not on Rinne, or any goaltender who would have been in net. Here’s what I had to say in the moment after Rinne was pulled:

The time will come when Saros is the guy who has to lead the Predators to a Stanley Cup. He’s showing that he’s ready for that role when Rinne hangs it up. It’s not happening now, so let’s move away from dissension on the goaltender who is the face of the franchise and deserves to get the opportunity to bounce back.

Next: Recap of Game 3 Loss to Colorado