Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne at Center Stage for Season Finale

Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by Pekka Rinne #35 after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime at Nationwide Arena on May 3, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by Pekka Rinne #35 after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime at Nationwide Arena on May 3, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

We’ve been preparing all season for the thought of Pekka Rinne starting his final game as a member of the Nashville Predators. It could actually happen tonight in Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators managed to officially clinch the fourth and final playoff spot on Saturday night by beating the Hurricanes 3-1, and now they’ll face that team again with playoff seeding not on the line.

Everyone agrees that Rinne should absolutely be the starter tonight as I’m sure there will be no shortage of tears as he waves to fans after the final horn sounds. We still don’t know for sure if it’s his last game, but it does seem likely that it is.

Is it really Pekka’s last game?

All season we’ve dealt with the prospect of it being Rinne’s last season in Nashville. It doesn’t make it any easier that the time could be now for his final game in Predators Gold.

There’s nothing for certain on Rinne’s future. It’s clear that he wants to retire with the Predators, but that’s all we really know for sure.

More from Predlines

Rinne had to become the regular starter for an injured Juuse Saros during the middle of this season, and it came at a time when the Predators were plummeting towards the bottom of the division.

Right when the hot streak started, Rinne got that start against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he held them to just one goal. The turnaround was sparked, and Saros would eventually take back over as the main starter.

The latest report to add to the uncertainty of Rinne’s hockey future is a piece written by Alex Daugherty of AtoZSports highlighting a Finnish newspaper linking Rinne back to Finland to continue his hockey career. 

This newspaper out of Finland says that Rinne and Oulun Karpat, the Finnish team in that area, have been in talks to continue his hockey career with them if the Predators don’t sign him to a new contract.

All season long there’s been speculation on what Rinne might decide to do, but the last thing I want to see is him in another NHL uniform. Ultimately it’s all about what Rinne wants, and he’s certainly given his all to the Nashville Predators over his 15-year NHL career both on and off the ice.

There’s still the chance that the Predators try to sign Rinne to a short-term deal over the offseason to keep him as Saros’ backup for another season. I’d certainly be on board with that, assuming the contract terms aren’t too outlandish.

Having Rinne as the backup would actually be really good for Saros for one more season as we wait for other goaltenders in the system to rise through the prospect ranks, most notably Connor Ingram.

The question really becomes all about what Rinne wants. He might be fully content with his NHL career and ready to move on to one last chapter in his home country. Or maybe he’s ready for life after hockey altogether. We just really don’t know.

Pekka Rinne’s Nashville Predators career

Rinne made his NHL debut for the Nashville Predators on December 15, 2005 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and won that first start by saving 35 shots on 38 shots faced. His Predators career was born.

It would be the 2008-09 season when Rinne would really start getting a bunch of starts as he would go on to start 49 games that season and compile a record of 29-15-4 with an impressive 2.38 GAA.

Rinne shared the starts with Dan Ellis that season, but he clearly showed that he was the No.1 goaltender in Nashville after the team failed to reach the playoffs and was in somewhat of a transition mode.

The Predators would then gradually become a perennial playoff team with Rinne as their main starter. He quickly became a fan favorite for Predators fans everywhere as the team was rising through the ranks of the Western Conference.

Of course we’ll never forget the Stanley Cup run and how big Rinne was in that, or his Vezina Trophy season the year after. He then would get the goaltender goal in January 2020 against the Blackhawks, which was just glorious in so many ways.

Rinne is 20th all-time in wins with 368 and could tie Tom Barrasso at 369 if he were to get the win in the season finale tonight. He’s also top-20 all-time in save percentage and shutouts, and another shutout would move him past Evgeni Nabokov for 19th.

Go out a winner

Looking at the present, Rinne enters tonight’s game as the presumed starter, but it also hasn’t been confirmed by yet. I’m expecting to see Rinne skate out in warmups as the starter just before the puck drops.

I wish it was in front of a fully capacity crowd at Bridgestone Arena to really get that place loud in commemoration of Rinne’s legacy to the Predators, but the limited capacity has still brought the noise as of late and will do so again tonight.

Locally we’ve declared this “Pekka Rinne Day” and pretty much every diehard Predators fan you can think of is showing their love for him today. It’s a beautiful thing to see when sports brings us together in a positive way like this:

You could spend all day looking at Pekka Rinne appreciation posts on social media and I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

There’s this glimmering hope that the Predators can bottle up whatever they had in 2016-17 and go on another deep playoff run. We all want a Stanley Cup for Rinne, and this is most likely the last chance to make that happen.

light. Must Read. Predators Gameday Preview: Whirlwind Season Comes to an End

The Predators already have their playoff position fully locked up, but they need to play this game like it’s for the Stanley Cup. Leave it all out there for what very well could be Rinne’s last game.

Here’s to you, Pekka. Maybe it’s not your last game, but if it is, then thanks for being the foundation of “Smashville” over the last 15 years and let’s get ready for one more wild ride through the playoffs.