We broke down the defense last week as part of our 2017/18 post-mortem, today we look at the goaltending. This will be an interesting analysis and certainly a tale of two seasons as the difference between regular season and the playoffs was stark.
- When Anders Lindback was signed as a free agent last summer, the chatter was about health and a potential backup in case Juuse Saros struggled as an NHL backup. The fact that Lindback didn’t see a minute of ice time in Nashville certainly answered the health question. The only callups for the popular ex-Pred covered times when Saros was sent down to get some extra playing time. Both Pekka Rinne and Saros stayed healthy throughout the season and the playoffs. Rinne posted 59 starts in his Vezina-worthy regular season, Saros got the other 23.
- Pekka Rinne’s regular season rankings were superb… top three in wins, number one in wins per start. GAA and Save percentage were tops in the league among goaltenders with 50 starts or more, tied for the league lead in shutouts. A simply stellar regular season. Playoffs were a different story. Although he posted two shutouts, Rinne could not seem to cover for Nashville defensive shortcomings and didn’t seem to come up with the big save at the big moment… he was pulled four times in 13 games and barely broke .900 for the playoffs for a save percentage. Rinne was not the reason the Predators flamed out in the second round… but he knows he could’ve been and should’ve been better.
- Nashville’s goaltending has been a strength of this team since inception and the baton seems to be ready to pass from Pekka Rinne to Juuse Saros. After a rough start to the season, Saros really put together a nice statistical season with a GAA of 2.44 and a save percentage of .925… considering where the young netminder started the season… those stats work. How the transition works becomes the focus now as Pekka Rinne enters the last year of his contract. The relationship between these two players is very strong and supportive…
- The biggest opportunity may be how to balance the two netminders. Was Rinne tired in the playoffs? Does the coaching staff need to do a better job managing his starts to maybe get him down to the 50 range for next season, giving Saros 32? Pekka turns 36 next season, but last year was Rinne’s 3rd best season in GAA and 2nd best season in Save Percentage.
- The transition between the two goaltenders comes into play here as well. Saros is an RFA this offseason and will command a larger contract. Pekka Rinne is in the last year of his contract and will be a UFA after next season. Does that drive the competition between the mentor and the mentee to new heights? Saros is 23 and just beginning to enter his prime as an athlete, Rinne is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. This bears watching.
- For the regular season, after a rough start for Saros, the tandem posted 11 shutouts and to this observer, earned a solid A for the season. The playoffs saw a dramatic drop, in stats and in the eye test… I give the goaltending a C in the playoffs… given the defensive performance of the team in front of Rinne.
Next up… the forwards.
A quick rant on Alexander Ovechkin… Larry Brooks tried to pee all over the Capital’s Wheaties in his column in yesterday’s New York Post… ummm… bitter much there Lar?
Ovechkin will go down in history as one of the greatest players who ever played the game. He was and is a goal scorer’s goal scorer… his “ledger of losing” includes multiple President’s Cups and over 600 goals scored. The Stanley Cup is the crowning achievement in his career and a silly New York columnist can’t ruin it.
Then there is Damien Cox and Steve Simmons… their morally superior takes make the Church Lady look like a party gal. Then Cox undermines his morally superior take by saying that he doesn’t care either way, throwing any relevance for his take out the window.
See… this is why we can’t have nice things.
- One of the best summer showcases begins today at Ford Ice Center… Brandon Walker’s Elite Edge Showcase.
- Those that think that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year haven’t tried to fly out of Nashville the day after CMA’s and Bonnaroo.
- Great piece from Justin Lowe today about the Case for trading Jonathan Toerws… fascinating take.
- It has been a lot of fun watching the Capitals tote the Cup around DC… especially the joy that Alex Ovechkin is displaying… so much fun.
SlapShot Radio’s tenth anniversary season has three shows left for the season. As the longest running hockey show in the region, SSR feeds hockey fans what they crave… intelligent, fun, entertaining talk about their favorite sport and we do it from the opening of training camp all the way through UFA day… the only local hockey show that does that.
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