Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne’s Case for the Vezina Trophy

DENVER, CO - MARCH 04: Goaltender Pekka Rinne
DENVER, CO - MARCH 04: Goaltender Pekka Rinne /

As expected, Pekka Rinne is a Vezina Trophy finalist for the fourth time in his illustrious career with the Nashville Predators.

In the midst of a first-round playoff series, the Nashville Predators can’t really focus on individual awards at the moment. Their attention is on the ultimate team award, the Stanley Cup. However, Pekka Rinne is a big reason the Predators are in the position they’re in. He’s coming off of one of his best regular season performances of his career.

The other two finalists for the Vezina are Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Both are worthy finalists on current playoff teams that are serious Stanley Cup contenders. They’re also at the early point of their careers, with many more opportunities to win the prestigious award. In classic Rinne form, he of course gave all of the credit to his teammates for the nomination:

All three you can make legitimate arguments for, but Rinne has the strongest argument over the other two. Here’s Rinne’s case against each of them.

Rinne vs. Vasilevskiy

Vasilevskiy surged right out of the gate this season, but came back down to Earth towards the end. He had a slump of five losses in seven games ranging from mid-March to the end of the month. He still has outstanding numbers, with the biggest one being his 44 wins. However, I don’t weigh wins as heavily as I do other key statistics like save percentage and goal against average.

He does have shutouts going for him with eight, same as Rinne. Shutouts are a key statistic in this debate due to the high level of difficulty to register shutouts in today’s NHL. Those eight shutouts and his dominant start to the season is the reason he’s in the conversation.

However, the month of March was brutal for him. He gave up six-plus goals in three games, and ironically still came out with a win in two of those games. That goes back to my point that wins aren’t as critical to me as other statistics. You can have a terrible individual performance in net, but be bailed out by your teammates.

Vasilevskiy has went from being the front-runner to being third in this conversation. He’s a nice, young talent that will probably be in the conversation for many more. Thanks to a lackluster finish to the regular season, Rinne has passed him. Vasilevskiy’s numbers really dipped, while Rinne’s has stayed consistent from start to finish.

Hellebuyck vs. Rinne

The argument gets much stronger for Hellebuyck. This guy is a big reason why Winnipeg is making the jump to being a Stanley Cup contender. He’s giving stability to the franchise and will likely go head-to-head with Rinne in the second round of the playoffs.

Hellebuyck is right there with Rinne in a lot of major categories like save percentage, which is a sizzling .924. As great as that is, Rinne is slightly better at .927. What strengthens Hellebuyck’s case the most against Rinne is the amount of shots he faced to post such great numbers. He faced the third-most shots in the NHL, but still managed to tally 44 wins and get the Jets close to a Presidents’ Trophy.

What gives the edge to Rinne over the rest of the competition is his save percentage at even strength and on the power play. He’s at .948 on the power play, which has been huge considering how much the Predators have been going to the penalty box this season. .

Shutouts are a major factor for me in this whole debate, and it ultimately sets Rinne apart from Hellebuyck. Rinne registered eight this season, and in most of those games he had to make some insane stops to keep the shutout. The Predators play an aggressive style of hockey that gives up a lot of counter attacks.

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It’s Rinne’s award to lose against the two younger goaltenders. Most of the stats are close, but consistency sticks out to me the most. Very rarely does Rinne lay up the stinker that causes the Predators to lose. If anything, Rinne wins more games for the Predators when they’re not at their best. The Vezina Trophy should finally belong to Rinne to add to what has been a great career.