After a rough start to the Winnipeg series, I think it might be time to raise the question: Is a goalie change in line for the Nashville Predators?
I want to start this by saying that I am really not a fan of yanking a goalie mid-series. To me, that says, you’re not getting it done for us, and we don’t think you can from here on out.I give goalies the longest leash imaginable as a fan, because simply put, pulling a goalie ruins them in my opinion.However, I think it’s time to raise the question: How much longer will the Nashville Predators let Pekka Rinne sit in net, as the Winnipeg Jets tee off on the Vezina Trophy finalist?
The Numbers this Series
Through 3 games in this Winnipeg series, Rinne has allowed 12 goals. A 3.0 GAA is just not going to get the job done in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no matter how good your offense is.
I know that the Predators and Jets had almost exclusively high-scoring affairs in the regular season, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest now.
To add onto a 3.0 GAA, Rinne has a .872 save percentage this series. To put those in perspective, Rinne had a .927 save percentage and 2.31 GAA in the regular season.
Clearly, he is not the same goalie that we saw for the first 82 games of the season.
You could make the case that Rinne has done all that he can so far, and I would generally agree with you. He has made almost all of the saves that he should, has controlled his rebounds well, and has done a great job of eliminating the Jets’ biggest threat, Patrik Laine.
However, a goalie during the playoffs has to do more than you expect from him. I know that sounds ridiculous, but a team needs a few spectacular saves every once in a while. Rinne has yet to really make a great play that has made me stand up and go “Wow this guy is on his game tonight.”
The Case for Saros
As far as backup goalies, Juuse Saros is about as good as they come. This season the 23-year-old netminder started 23 games for the Predators. He won 11, and posted a .925 save percentage, alongside a 2.45 GAA.
In his last 10 starts, Saros is 6-1-3. Over that span, he’s had a .925 save percentage and a 2.6 GAA. In those games, Juuse has been fantastic for the Predators. He’s kept them in big games, and never once been the reason they lost.
Also, he was pretty much the reason they won in many, as he stopped 29+ shots in 5 of the 6 games he won during that 10 game span.
So far this playoffs, Saros has been perfect, as he saved all 18 shots that he faced in a little over 33 minutes versus Colorado in Game 3. And in 18 minutes of relief in Game 1 versus Winnipeg, Saros blocked both shots that he saw.
In relief this season, Saros has been superb.
Coming into the net and being the guy to stop the bleeding, is a very tough job. Not to mention if you’re 23 years old. Juuse has been calm and collected every time he’s had to pick up the pieces for the Predators this season.
Although it wouldn’t technically be a relief switch, Saros in net for Game 4 is basically a relief start.
If Peter Laviolette were to make a switch for Game 4, I believe the Predators would be in great hands.
If the Predators were to make a switch in net for Game 4, it would be huge. Game 4 basically decides this series, in my opinion, and whoever is between the pipes for Nashville, has a tall task.
If Rinne is pulled, that basically means that he’s done for a while. If Nashville were to scrape out a Game 4 win with Saros in net, Saros has to start again in Game 5, and so on.
Basically, once the Predators commit to Juuse, there is no going back to Pekka. Say what you want about the mental fortitude of these athletes, but once you bench your Vezina-finalist goalie, that’s a statement.
Not to mention that Rinne hasn’t exactly been 100% there as of late. In game 3 in Winnipeg, Pekka was clearly rattled.
The Jets tacked on 4 goals in the 2nd period alone. Granted, the Jets offense moved the puck and scored good goals, but still…
Pekka really started to break in the 3rd though, and I began to question a possible goalie switch.
With about 5 minutes to go, Laine fires a shot off of Pekka’s mask.
A strap clearly comes loose, and Rinne knows it, so he asks the official for a whistle. By rule, he should’ve gotten a stoppage of play, however, he didn’t and Blake Wheeler buried the go ahead goal just moments later.
Rinne talked to the official, but remained collected for the most part.
He unraveled moments later in a play that I’ve never even remotely seen out of Rinne.
This right here tells me that the #35 we see in net right now, is not the #35 who is up for the Vezina Trophy.
I’m not saying that the Predators need to bail on Rinne before a series-deciding Game 4. However, it might be time to wonder how much longer we’re going to see #35 between the pipes, before Saros steps in…for good.
Shake it off, Predator fans. It’s only 2-1.
Go Preds Go!