Saturday's night's win in San Jose marked the halfway point of the 2010-11 season for the Predators, making it a good time to review the work done so far by Nashville's Nordic netminders. While we knew that Pekka Rinne had potential (and expectations) to carry a heavy burden for this team, his backup, Anders Lindback, was a total unknown, having never played in North America before.
Follow after the jump as we break down their performance and hand out grades!
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|2010 - Anders Lindback||18||939||10||3||2||37||2.36||473||436||.922||2|
When he came into the game on Opening Night after Pekka was injured, Preds fans had reason to worry - the Preds had deliberately taken an unusual gamble by going without any NHL experience behind him, with a raw rookie as the backup, and Mark Dekanich in Milwaukee. What we saw over the next several days was a pleasant surprise, however. While Peks recovered, "Anders The Giant" stood in the gap admirably, playing a patient game and relying on his gargantuan frame to make the first save. His defensemen knew what they had to do - sweep away the rebounds and limit second chances. The team fared well, beating the Blackhawks and Blues, then dropping an overtime decision to Washington before Rinne returned.
Just last month, Anders was called upon again when Pekka required some work on his knee, and he proved that the initial run was no fluke, playing 9 games (6-2-1) with a .929 save percentage. The nice thing is that he's been remarkably consistent. Out of 15 starts, only 3 of them have ended with a sub-.910 save percentage. The Goalie Guild posted an outstanding look at just how Lindback is getting the job done, in part by mimicking Peks. It's well worth a read as we look ahead to what The Giant can do the rest of the way.
And hey, at least he's getting settled down now in Middle Tennessee!
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||26||1503||12||10||4||54||2.16||734||680||.926||3|
Despite some occasional softies given up on steep angle shots, Pekka Rinne has largely continued where he left off at the end of last season. He, like Lindback, takes up a huge amount of space, but combines that with stronger rebound control as he often swallows up pucks altogether. At this point of his career, all the pieces are in place for him to make a run at establishing himself as an elite NHL starter. The only question remains whether he can bounce back into form after allowing a bad goal - they happen to everyone, but sometimes with Pekka, they tend to come in bunches.
The encouraging news so far is that he's been more "on" than "off", currently standing 4th on the NHL's list of Save Percentage Leaders, and tops among Western Conference goalies. What is perhaps most unusual about that stat is that his save percentage on the penalty kill (.930) is actually higher than at even strength (.926). While that PK save percentage is likely to come down a bit, the overall level of performance seems sustainable.
The odd bit is that he's tied with Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury for the goaltending lead in penalty minutes, with 8. Half of that total came in just one game, on November 27 versus the New York Rangers, when he took two mind-boggling penalties for playing the puck outside the dreaded trapezoid behind the net. Anything beyond merely stopping pucks on dump-ins for his defenseman tends to become an adventure, so let's hope the puckhandling choices are kept to the bare minimum, and that Peks keeps his focus between the pipes, which is where he's dominating these days.