Nashville Predators Should Stay the Course with Juuse Saros as Starter

Goaltender Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Goaltender Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

It was inevitable that if the Nashville Predators dropped Game 1 to the Arizona Coyotes that the goaltender debate would creep back in.

The Nashville Predators suffered a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday to open up their best-of-five series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Despite four goals being surrendered by Juuse Saros, I’m not ready to have a knee-jerk reaction and turn to Pekka Rinne for Game 2. This coming from a guy who originally was leaning towards Rinne as the starter back before training camp started.

However, we all knew this was going to be a tough decision for Head Coach John Hynes to make out of training camp. Both goaltenders played well in the exhibition game, and it’s hard to forget what Rinne did in 2017 to help carry the Predators all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

You’ve already committed to Saros

When you look over Arizona’s four goals, at least two of them weren’t Saros’ fault. They would’ve been very difficult saves to make and were products of bad luck and poor play in front of the netminder.

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The first goal to open the scoring was just an odd bounce that wouldn’t find the back of the net 99 percent of the time. You can say that Saros should’ve been more aware, but even the best of goaltenders fall victim to unlucky bounces.

The sloppy turnover by Filip Forsberg that led to a breakaway goal for the Coyotes was a back-breaker. It got the deficit back to three goals, and you can’t put that on Saros.

The one goal that you can definitely put on Saros is the second goal scored by Arizona, which was due to a rebound and being pulled out of position.

Ideally you wish Saros could’ve smothered the puck better in that situation, but the defensive resistance wasn’t too great from the Nashville defenders, either.

This isn’t to make excuses for Saros. He’s the goaltender and he has to find ways to make critical saves, like the breakaway attempt. But at the same time, he also kept the Predators chances high as they were making a comeback.

Saros made some crucial saves after the Predators fell behind 4-1. The Coyotes were keeping the pressure on to really bury the Predators, and instead the Predators were able to keep plugging away and has a decent chance to tie it until the very end.

Hynes noted how well Saros played to keep the Predators’ comeback hopes alive. A comeback that was nearly completed after Forsberg made it 4-3 with over 11 minutes left in regulation.

"“I can’t answer (who will start Game 2) but I liked [Saros’] game. He had some situations where I thought he stayed mentally focused. He had some big saves throughout the game.”"

Don’t send the wrong message

It would be a horrible message to send to your young goaltender in Saros if you bail on him after one game. Not the right message for the future of your franchise in net if you switch starters this quick.

Furthermore, we’re heading into a back-to-back situation for Games 2 and 3. There’s a high probability that Rinne starts Game 3, and you stick with Saros for Game 2.

The issue wasn’t goaltending in this loss. It was spending too much time having to drain your energy to kill penalties while also wasting opportunities early in the game with a lack of intensity to match Arizona.

The only way I see Hynes making a permanent shift from Saros to Rinne is if Saros completely falls apart early in Game 2. And when I say “fall apart”, I mean surrendering three or four soft goals in the first half of regulation.

Hynes has already committed himself to Saros as the starter. Give him the chance to rebound and win you a game or two by himself. We know he’s capable of that.

These are correctable things the Predators can work on with the off day. If Saros plays a similar type of game as he did Sunday, I can almost guarantee you there won’t be another fluky bounce over his shoulder for a goal, or a shorthanded breakaway surrendered on the Nashville power play.

Take out those two unfortunate goals, and the Predators win yesterday and the conversation is very different right now.

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You can live with two goals being given up by Saros. If he can manage that tomorrow, then Nashville wins. They’ll manage at least three goals if they make the right adjustments and keep it at 5-on-5 more often.