Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne Gets Benched Again in Ugly Loss to Pittsburgh

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 27: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena on December 27, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 27: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena on December 27, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s unfortunately becoming a common theme for the Nashville Predators when Pekka Rinne gets the start. He was pulled once again for Juuse Saros.

You just never know what you’re going to get out of this Nashville Predators team. They can go from looking like a true contender to a team that will be hitting the golf course early in a matter of one game, and sometimes even from period to period.

This one was pretty much all bad from start to finish against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 5-2 loss ends a five-game point streak and a stretch of very good play from this team. This loss isn’t the end of the world, but you hate to see them lay a big egg like this at home after a three-day holiday break.

Pekka Rinne benched again

The big story here is Pekka Rinne’s continued struggles. He’s been pulled out of several games this year in favor of Juuse Saros. This time it came while still in the first period after the Penguins went up 3-1.

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators /

Nashville Predators

Once again this was a joint effort of weak goaltending and horrible defense in front of that weak goaltending. A very bad combination, and especially against a flashy team like the Penguins are. At the time Rinne’s benching, there was still plenty of time for the Predators to mount a comeback, so I agree with the move.

Things didn’t really stabilize after Saros came in, and there was much better goaltending on Pittsburgh’s end from Tristan Jarry. He had 30 saves on 32 shots face from the Predators, and his goals against average is now all the way down at 1.87 through 17 starts.

Let’s just be honest. The Predators can’t lean on stellar goaltending from Rinne anymore. Something is going on here, and it might just simply be the aging factor. It happens to everyone, but I was hoping Rinne still had some gas in the tank.

The Predators are going to need three to four goals every night to have decent chances at winning. This is where they find themselves at, and fortunately enough they are talented enough offensively to sometimes offset the poor defensive issues.

Saros needs to be starting three out of every four starts from here on out. He’s the younger guy who is the future of the franchise. Let’s ride it out with him primarily and see if we get better results.

The Predators are a wildcard team, and nothing more

As of now, I still feel fairly confident the Predators are going to be one of the two wildcard teams. As we know, anything can happen once you get in. That’s what we have to hope for now. That the Predators sneak through the back door and then go on a crazy hot streak.

There’s just too much inconsistency and red flags for me to say with any real confidence that the Predators are going to charge up the Central Division standings and get home-ice advantage in the first round. They just need to worry about getting in at this point.

Even more so, the Predators seem to play just as good, and maybe even better, when they’re on the road. This home loss to Pittsburgh I saw no energy or assertiveness despite what Peter Laviolette said in the postgame, per Kristopher Martel:

Everyone has a right to be frustrated, but we have to come to the understanding that this is who this team is. A team that’s wildly inconsistent and can lose to anyone and beat anyone. Our only hope is that they find lightning in a bottle when and if they make the playoffs and go on a run.

Goal scorers for the Predators were Craig Smith and Viktor Arvidsson. Smith scored on a deflection to tie it at 1-1 early in the opening period off a deflection for his 6th goal of the year.

Roman Josi managed to tally another point on Arvidsson’s goal. Josi is now up to 36 points in 37 games and is staying on track to be right in the thick of the Norris Trophy conversation.

There’s some bad injury news as well with Colton Sissons looking at missing some time due to a lower-body injury suffered in the game. You also have Dan Hamhuis fighting the injury bug, so that leaves Colin Blackwell and Jarred Tinordi to fill in.

The Predators get no time to rest as they’re in Pittsburgh tonight to play this same team again that just embarrassed them on their home ice. There’s not a projected lineup yet, but I wouldn’t expect much to change on the quick turnaround.

Puck drop is 6 P.M. CDT from Pittsburgh, a place where the Predators only have five regulation wins all-time. Let’s get No.6 and dish out what they dished out to us last night.