With everything that has gone wrong this season, the Nashville Predators still find themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot.
It’s the All-Star break and the Nashville Predators are six points behind Vegas and Arizona for a wildcard spot. They’re going to need the Pekka Rinne of old to carry them to their sixth-straight playoff appearance.
This is really quite simple when you think about it. The Predators are an unpredictable team largely due to their erratic goaltending from Rinne and Juuse Saros. Both need to be better in high-danger situations, but Rinne is the guy who will end up getting the majority of the starts down the stretch most likely.
The Predators got a massive win to go into their eight-day break as Rinne was spectacular and made 30 saves. His one goal he gave up was the product of a ridiculous pass across the ice that he just couldn’t dive over in time to stop.
Rinne’s play critical down the stretch
I don’t want the Predators to have to keep winning games by scoring four or fives goals. That’s just not a sustainable winning formula. They need more consistency from Rinne, and hopefully this break will allow the team to make adjustments to better protect Rinne from having to be perfect every game.
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Expect Rinne to finish with around 55 starts to end the season, which will be right around how many he’s had the last two seasons. I expected Saros to get more starts originally, but Rinne has been the more consistent goaltender of the two.
Rinne is trending back in the right direction as he’s posted a save percentage above 90 in eight of his last 11 starts. Progress is being made to get him back to his career averages.
If Rinne gets back to the elite goaltender he’s been for his entire career, then the Predators are going to start stringing together more wins.
Inside some of his numbers
Rinne’s high-danger save percentage actually isn’t too bad, believe it or not. He’s posted a .873 save percentage is high-danger situations per NaturalStatTrick. That’s among the best in the league, and ahead of players like Ben Bishop, Jordan Binnington and Darcy Kuemper.
Problem is Rinne is having to stop so many high-danger attempts that eventually some of them are going to go in. The Predators need to do a better job limiting those high-danger attempts that Rinne is having to face. If that happens, Rinne’s overall goals against average is going to improve and naturally give the Predators better chances to get wins.
Despite having much fewer starts than many of the other goaltenders he’s ranked with, Rinne has among the most high-danger shot attempts against him. If he had 30-plus starts like many of the other goaltenders, he’d be near the top in this category.
Rinne is a tested and proven veteran that has the ability to go on a hot streak and start taking over games for the Predators. We haven’t seen that as much as we would like this season, but things seem to be trending in a positive direction in terms of more disciplined play defensively.
Another product of seeing Rinne’s overall numbers improving is the Predators fixing their penalty kill, which has been disastrous all season. This is where Rinne is really struggling compared to his career average.
Rinne has a .737 save percentage when the Predators are on the penalty kill. Some of that is on him having to step up and make bigger saves, but a large chunk of that is poor execution by the team in front of him. We need this area to improve badly and for Rinne to get this percentage back up to his career average of around 91 percent.
If we start seeing the Rinne who won the Vezina Trophy in 2018, then this team is making the playoffs. Plain and simple. However, if the performance in front of him continues to be shaky and Rinne can’t offset that, then this team will remain a fringe bubble team going into the final weeks.
Looking over the standings, my confidence remains fairly high that the Predators are going to make the necessary adjustments to sneak into the playoffs. Rinne is going to get locked in, the penalty kill is going to show some improvement from it and we’ll see what it translates to in the playoffs.