There always has to be a scapegoat when a sports team doesn’t live up to expectations. That’s what’s happening with the Nashville Predators right now.
I’m not even sure a scapegoat makes sense in case of the Nashville Predators and all of their problems. It’s not just a single issue that’s plaguing this team. There’s a lot of issues.
However, if we have to assign someone as being the scapegoat, that usually goes to the head coach. That’s what they sign up for, and it shouldn’t be shocking to Predators head coach Peter Laviolette.
Who shouldn’t be the scapegoat is Pekka Rinne. Yes, he’s in the midst of one of his worst seasons statistically. It looks like a massive uphill battle to even get his save percentage above 90 with the way things are going.
Making the case for Rinne
This isn’t me making excuses for Rinne. He clearly has to be better on his own right, but one guy can only do so much. Far too often the team in front of him is falling apart and not matching the physical intensity of the other team. It’s happening in a flash, and happened again yesterday in the NHL Winter Classic.
I’m seeing this on a regular basis where the Predators just lose all of their energy, speed and physicality in the middle of the game. Sometimes they come out at the opening puck drop and play this way, Either way, it’s doing a disservice to Rinne, and also Juuse Saros.
Rinne is still making some incredible saves that most goaltenders don’t make. The problem is he’s starting to look like an aging goaltender that can’t continue to take barrages of pucks thrown at him in flurries. And that’s what the Predators defense is giving up.
Corsica Hockey has Rinne rated No.21 in their goalie ratings. Not elite, but he’s in the green for them. Considering the lack of defense and his age, that’s pretty respectable. He needs a more defensive-minded team in front of him.
I have no doubt that if you put Rinne on a more disciplined hockey team, like the Dallas Stars, he would be putting up much better numbers closer to what we’re accustomed to seeing from him. I know you want to point the finger as Rinne because he’s giving up a lot of goals, but you’re wasting your energy.
What’s the real problem, or problems?
It’s a multitude of things that I’ve seen coming for well over a month now. First off, this team doesn’t play a full 60 minutes ever. They seem incapable of doing that. Sometimes they can get away with playing just 50 minutes of good hockey because their talent and luck goes their way.
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Playing dangerously like this doesn’t translate to going anywhere in the playoffs, or even making the playoffs quite frankly. That’s why the Predators find themselves in the cold, dark place in the standings that they’re in currently. They don’t play a full 60 minutes.
This glaring problem falls on both coaches and players. It’s a full team sickness that needs to be remedied. As I stated earlier thought, it starts with Laviolette getting this team hungry enough to play with intensity for the entire game.
I’m sick of this team trying to live off of its talent alone. Clearly that’s not good enough on most occasions, unless you’re playing an inferior opponent.
I’m also waiting on the veterans to start taking over games when things do go astray. Players like Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith have to start taking control when momentum slips. They’re not always doing that like they did in the past.
Finally, we’re clearly seeing the effects of having a defense that thinks offense first. We love to see the Predators erupt for five goals like they regularly do, but what does it matter if they can’t hold the team to under five goals as well?
We need defensemen who can clamp down and not give an inch to the opposition. We’re not seeing that on most nights. Occasionally you’ll see Mattias Ekholm be a force defensively, but mostly the Predators defensemen just play like forwards. That’s burning this team, and making Rinne and Saros look worse than they really are.
Can any of these problems be fixed in time to sneak into the playoffs? Stranger things have happened even as recent as last season with the Blues, but things are definitely looking bleak because these problems are massive problems that aren’t easily fixed.
To wrap this up, this team has multiple scapegoats you can choose from. However, Rinne is one of the last ones you should point to. The guy has been the primary foundation of this franchise for over a decade.