Predators: Diving Into Pekka Rinne’s Incredible Start

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators rests at the bench during a timeout against the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena on October 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators rests at the bench during a timeout against the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena on October 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Father Time catches up to everyone eventually, but it hasn’t caught up to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators just yet.

This is an incredible start for Pekka Rinne, and it’s giving the Nashville Predators a deadly combination. We’ve seen him do this before, but it’s coming at a time when his career should be regressing. Instead he’s appearing to not lose steam at all.

It’s already widely known that the Predators have an elite offense, perhaps the best in the NHL. Statistically speaking they are the best offensive team in the league averaging four goals per game. Now when Rinne is locked in like he is now, the Predators have to be considered one of the top favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

The topic of discussion for a while has been balancing out the starts between Rinne and Juuse Saros. Giving Rinne plenty of rest, while also preparing Saros to be the top starter in net in the near future. But Rinne keeps putting up gems, and that makes it hard to justify splitting the starts evenly between the two goaltenders.

Can Rinne keep this up?

There’s no doubt that Rinne gives the Predators the best chance to win when he’s in net. He’s 7-0-1 through his first eight starts to 2019-20, with his lone loss coming in the shootout. The team has been near-perfect when Rinne is between the pipes.

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Rinne had a similar start to last season beginning  6-1 before eventually stumbling badly in December. He lost five-straight starts in December. Win-loss records isn’t something I put heavy weight on when analyzing a goaltender. Ban bounces and poor team play in front of the goaltender can affect a goaltender’s record.

What’s really impressive about Rinne is he’s still making all of the really tough saves. And he seems to always be locked in and in the right spot. He’s not letting soft goals in at all from what I’ve seen. His high-danger save percentage is at 84, right around where many of the other top goaltenders are at.

His medium-danger save percentage is at an incredible 97.1, which is close to the top among goaltenders in the NHL. He’s stopping shots that have a decent chance at going in. Then you have your low-danger save percentage, which Rinne is also to no surprise thriving in with a 98.97.

What these save percentages tell me is that to score on Rinne, you’re going to have to really test him. He’s not going to give you soft goals hardly ever. At least with how he’s playing early on. If he can keep up this trend, he’ll absolutely be in the running for his second Vezina Trophy. His numbers will keep boosting up because he’s making the intermediate saves and the “easy” saves.

What does this mean for Saros?

Saros’ time is going to come, eventually. But the Predators have to ride the hot hand in net. Initially I figured the Predators were going to come pretty close to splitting their starts 50/50. However, with Rinne off to such a blazing start, you can’t take away starts from him.

I do believe that Rinne should be getting his fair share of rest when needed, like the Predators have done in the past. For instance, tonight’s game against the Flames is a perfect spot to get Saros his fifth start of the season.

With Rinne playing so well and not appearing to lose a step at all, it means Saros may not get as many starts this season as we originally thought he would. It’s not a knock on Saros necessarily, but Rinne is locked in. And when Rinne is locked in, he’s simply one of the best in the game.

You pair a locked-in Rinne with the top offense in the league, a respectable bottom six and a formidable top two defensive pairing and you have yourself a Stanley Cup contender. Unless Rinne goes through a major funk, he should be starting two out of every three at the very least. That’s the trend they appear to be taking, and they should stick with that unless something major changes.

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I’m not going to be surprised at all if Rinne surpasses 40 wins this season, even with him sharing plenty of starts with Saros. His career-high is 43 wins. If Rinne gets between 55 to 60 starts, he has a great shot at setting a new career-high because this team is so good offensively and he’s going to get the goal support.