Nashville Predators: Can Pekka Rinne Remain Top Option in Net for 2019-20?

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 4: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators gets a break during a tv timeout against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena on April 4, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 4: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators gets a break during a tv timeout against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena on April 4, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Approaching age 37, Pekka Rinne is showing no signs of regressing for the Nashville Predators. What can we expect from him in 2019-20?

For the past couple of seasons I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see Rinne show little to no sign of his play deteriorating for the Nashville Predators. In fact, he’s had some of his best seasons in recent memory, even as he nears age 37. He’s the unquestionable backbone of this franchise, and none of us are ready to see him finally hang up his skates.

Rinne had his fewest number of starts in a season since 2013-14 when he had 24 starts and shared time with Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton due to injury. A year the Predators missed the playoffs, came in 24th in goals against and was Barry Trotz’s last season as head coach. A season when Rinne dealt with the infection to his hip. Since then, the Predators have gradually become one of the most consistent teams in the NHL, thanks in large part to Rinne.

“Father Time” is undefeated, and it will eventually catch up to Rinne. The Predators have a great backup plan in Juuse Saros, but I’m intrigued to see if Rinne can keep it up as one of the NHL’s best goaltenders and continue to carry the Predators to big wins. He might have one more productive season left in the gas tank.

Is he starting to decline?

Rinne’s numbers dipped a little bit from his Vezina Trophy season the prior year. His goals against average ticked up, but not by much. His save percentage dropped to .918. Neither of those are terrible numbers and glaring enough to think he’s slipping. There were a lot of issues surrounding  him that caused the team to have a leaky defense in front of the net.

More from Predlines

Aside from fixing the putrid last-place power play, the Nashville Predators have to get better in the trenches in front of Rinne. He was hung out to dry a countless number of times. This is going to take a collective effort from everyone as everyone shared some blame for this last season.

The instance that sticks out the most is Game 4 against the Stars in the first round of the playoffs. The Predators were up 2-1 in the series, and the season essentially ended that fateful night when the Predators played sloppy, undisciplined hockey. Rinne was yanked after giving up four goals on eight shots, and the season virtually ended. This can’t happen again.

Rinne’s high-danger save percentage from last season really sticks out. Even in the playoffs his high-danger save percentage of over 81 was higher than Jordan Binnington’s of the Stanley Cup-winning Blues. His regular season percentage was near the top of the league in that category, and at the top based on the number of games he started. This shows he’s not slowing down when it comes to stepping up and making critical saves.

Predicting Rinne’s upcoming season

Assuming both Rinne and Saros avoid injury, I’m expecting another split of starts between the duo. Rinne isn’t showing any dramatic form of regression to make the bold move to give Saros more starts. It doesn’t mean you’re not confident in Saros, but it’s more that Rinne still has a lot to give.

Rinne is going to remain one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. He’s going to keep making jaw-dropping saves that end up on the Sportscenter Top Ten. With that said, he’s going to also remain the streaky goaltender that sometimes can’t seem to stop anything. We’ve come to learn that we have to take the elite level of play with the occasional blunder that has the game over before the second intermission.

The Predators defense is somewhat of a concern going into 2019-20. They’ve lost P.K. Subban, thrusting the young Dante Fabbro into the fold. By all accounts Fabbro seems ready to be a mainstay on the NHL level. He may come in and help us quickly forget about Subban. However, there are going to be growing pains initially. That might mean more leaky defensive showings that compromises Rinne’s numbers. Once the team gets acclimated with the new line combinations and a change in schemes, everyone should settle in and play well in front of the net.

Rinne is the reason the Nashville Predators are recognized as one of the top teams in the NHL, and also the most-hated by many opposing fans. He’s stolen so many games from opposing teams, and he’ll keep doing that. He’ll come out victorious in games the Predators played terribly and had to be bailed out.

Next. Filip Forsberg Could Have Record-Breaking Season for Nashville. dark

Expect Rinne to have another 30-plus win season, a save percentage around 92 and five or more shutouts to put him in the top-20 all-time in shutouts in the NHL. Saros will eventually be the Predators’ new star goaltender, as he has all the tools to be that. As for now, he’ll have to be patient as Rinne’s time to hang it up hasn’t arrived just yet.