When Ryan Suter left the Nashville Predators to sign a massive contract up in Minnesota over the summer, everyone knew it would make life just a little more difficult for the Preds.
Not that life wasn’t already difficult for a team built around their defensive game. They’ve never been a high powered offensive squad, even when they thought they threw enough offensively skilled Russians into the lineup in last year’s postseason. Of course, Alexander Radulov didn’t work out so well.
This season, the Preds have continued to struggle on offense, but on defense as well. Just over a quarter way through the year, the only real redeeming thing about this team that is keeping them in the playoff hunt is the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Just as Henrik Lundqvist did last year, Rinne may find himself as a candidate for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies when the season comes to an end. His play has been that good. And for a team that is fourth from the bottom in goal differential in the Western Conference (-7) to be fifth in the standings speaks to his performance.
Rinne’s record isn’t the greatest, but his numbers have been terrific. He has three shutouts on the year, posting a goals-against average of just 2.10 and a .919 save percentage. And that’s including his struggles over the past couple of games.
Yes, it’s true that Rinne has struggled over the course of the last three or so games. But given what he did in the weeks prior, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out of it and starts to play at that high level again. If the Preds manage to stay in the top eight and make the playoffs, it is going to be because Pekka Rinne got them there.