Columbus Blue Jackets fans can’t be too thrilled with the goaltending decisions the Nashville Predators made for their last two games. The Blue Jackets are fighting with the Detroit Red Wings for a playoff spot, and had to watch Thursday as the Predators not only rolled out backup netminder Chris Mason, but also watch the Red Wings score five goals on him and solidify their grasp on a playoff spot. The Blue Jackets have one game remaining, and they will face the Predators but have to go up against top goaltender Pekka Rinne.
The Predators won’t be making the playoffs this season, thanks to a second-half collapse. They have managed just two wins in 12 April games, with Rinne starting all but two of those contests. While their star netminder has had a disappointing season, Mason’s performance has been nothing short of horrible. The Predators have now lost both of his most recent starts by an identical 5-2 score, and the veteran netminder is 1-6-1 with a 3.97 goals-against average. No one would blame them for resting Rinne rather than risk an injury, starting Mason down the stretch or even calling up an AHL goaltender. That isn’t the path they chose, however, and it has to sting a little bit for the Blue Jackets to know they face a much tougher fight on Saturday than the Red Wings did on Thursday.
Rinne is 15-16-8 on the season, and has had to shoulder a heavy workload partially because Mason did not prove to be a viable backup option. His 2.43 goals-against average and .910 save percentage aren’t that far off his career numbers, and he deserves some credit for getting his team at least a point in 23 games considering he hasn’t always had a ton of offensive support. While the Predators decision likely wasn’t one designed to help a rival team, it ends up looking that way and time will tell if that motivates the Blue Jackets to come out swinging this weekend.