Sitting atop the Western Conference right now, Nashville is riding high. However, the Nashville Predators will face some challenges in November.
Through 8 games this season, the Nashville Predators are playing about as well as possible. They are sitting right now with a 7-1 record, with 14 points. Currently, they sit atop the Western Conference with the Colorado Avalanche, who also have 14 points.
Over the weekend, the Predators took two straight games in Western Canada, with a 5-3 at Calgary, and a 3-0 at Edmonton. The team is returning home for a Tuesday night game at Bridgestone Arena vs the San Jose Sharks.
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However, even though they’re on a 5 game win streak, and have been dominant since a 3-0 loss at home vs Calgary on Oct. 9, the Predators are sure to face some tough challenges in November.
Whether it be a whole new set of issues that haven’t come to light yet, or be it the task of just continuing what has worked well so far, November will not be easy for the Predators.
On Saturday, the Predators announced that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was being placed on the injured reserve. Rinne left last Friday’s game in the 3rd period, after a collision with teammate Kevin Fiala. As a result, Rinne will miss at least two more games, after sitting on Saturday night during a 3-0 win at Edmonton.
With that, the Predators are staring a major challenge right in the face.
Rinne, the longtime franchise goaltender, is reaching the end. He is 35 years old, and at 6’5″ 205 lbs, it’s only a matter of time before his body starts to break down. I hope it never does, but at his age and size, it seems inevitable. With this injury, it’s possible that Rinne and the Predators could be headed down a tricky road, in which the team tries to find a balance between their reigning Vezina-trophy goalie, and the future netminder, Juuse Saros.
So far this season, Rinne is 3-1, with a 2.1 GAA, a .929 save percentage, and 1 shutout.
On the other side, the 23-year old Saros is a perfect 4-0, with a 1.54 GAA, a .945 save percentage, and 1 shutout as well.
Those numbers right there epitomize the dilemma for coach Peter Laviolette. Rinne has been the guy for over a decade. Saros will be the guy soon enough. Rinne is playing very well right now. Saros just so happens to be playing even better.
What to do?
To me, that will be one of the biggest challenges that the Predators will face in the upcoming weeks, as Pekka recovers from injury, and the schedule ramps up. If both continue at the same high level of play, we should expect a healthy rotation like we have seen in the past years. If one falters or is injured though, the Predators could have a real dilemma on their hands.
With 14 games in November, the Predators will be fully into the rut in no time. From there, things might get hairy in net.