Nashville Predators Have Goalie Stability With David Rittich as Backup

Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich (33) Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich (33) Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Stability isn’t a word you’re going to throw around confidently with this Nashville Predators team currently, but at the goalie position they at least appear to be covered.

A big topic of conversation going into the offseason after their elimination in the first round to the Carolina Hurricanes was what was Pekka Rinne‘s decision going to be on retirement. Then we caught win of a “major announcement” and press conference being called, and we all assumed it was pertaining to Rinne’s retirement.

That’s when we all knew that the Predators would be in the market for a backup goaltender to Juuse Saros. It’s been a busy offseason for General Manager David Poile, and getting a quality backup goaltender was a very important item on the list to take care of.

Quality goaltending will be the strength of the Nashville Predators once again

In comes the 29-year-old David Rittich, who has 121 career NHL starts and a GAA below three goals per game. Last season he split time with Calgary and Toronto to total 15 starts, but a below average save percentage just above 90.

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If the Predators are going to push for an eighth-consecutive playoff appearance, goaltending is going to have to win the day on most occasions.

Saros figures to be the workhorse, but Rittich is going to be leaned on to not be a liability when he does give Saros some rest.

Rittich has the nickname of “Big Save Dave”, and that nickname is going to have to be lived up to even if he’s not facing the pressure of being the top starter.

This is why I like the signing of Rittich as a backup because I do think he can be trusted as reliable to not lose games for the Predators when he gets his spot starts behind Saros. It’s going to be vital that he gives coaches the confidence to get starts so that Saros doesn’t get burnt out early.

I keep thinking about how the Tampa Bay Lightning were a vastly different team last season from when they started their backup Curtis McElhinney over arguably the world’s best goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy. McElhinney put up a horrendous .875 save percentage in his 12 spot starts. But the Lightning are a loaded team that can overcome bad goalie play, whereas the Predators are not.

Rittich’s career numbers are steady, but not groundbreaking

Rittich started 48 games for Calgary in 2019-20 and put up a respectable 24-17-6 record. He’s not far removed from that level that is going to be required, on a much smaller workload, for the Predators this season.

Saros has never started more than 35 games in a season, and he’s obviously going to crush that total assuming he doesn’t deal with any long-term injuries. He should get anywhere between 50 and 60 starts, with Rittich getting the remainder.

However, if Rittich is playing very well in his first several starts of the season, then absolutely you give him more opportunities to give Saros extra rest over the long grind of an 82-game regular season.

The Predators have ten back-to-backs this season as the schedule stands right now. Of course things could change due to games having to be rescheduled, but that means at the very least Rittich will be counted on in those scenarios.

If things do unfortunately go south for Rittich and he is costing the team games in his spot duty, then Connor Ingram is with the Milwaukee Admirals and assumed to eventually be the backup to Saros in the coming years. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though.

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It’s also possible that the Predators are forced to really start Saros nearly every game and hope he can replicate what he did last season down the stretch. Again, not ideal.

Rittich just needs to stick around his career numbers to be good enough to hold down the backup role and even help the team win when Saros isn’t in net.

It’s going to be so weird not seeing Rinne among the goaltenders in Nashville, but the Predators did a solid job signing Rittich this offseason. I expect this duo to be the strength of the team like the goaltender position has been for most of this franchise’s history.