With the season now over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Pekka Rinne.
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||64||3789||33||22||9||134||2.12||1905||1771||.930||6|
Today's report card was written by Jim Diamond, who pens a steady stream of must-read Preds stories at the Nashville Predators Examiner. Make sure to follow him on Twitter at @diamondhockey, for instant updates on when a defining moment is in the making for the team...
The Skinny: When the Predators signed Pekka Rinne to a two-year, $6.8 million contract extension February 24, 2010, the 6'5" Finn was officially anointed as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future over incumbent Dan Ellis. Not bad for a guy who just a couple of months prior wasn't seen as one of Finland'stop three goaltenders and was left off of the Land of the Rising Goaltender's roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Entering September's training camp, Rinne was the only goaltender with any NHL experience, meaning he would, to borrow one of head coach Barry Trotz' favorite phrases, be ridden like Seabiscuit. Coming off of a 32-16-5 performance in the 2009-10 regular season and a disappointing loss in six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawkslast April, Rinne was going to have to be equally good or even better if the Predators hoped to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Performance: In a word... wow. The numbers on their own are impressive; 33-22-9 in the regular season with a .930 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average in 64 appearances. Not reflected in the numbers are injuries sustained by both Rinne and his teammates that made his performance even more impressive. Rinne was injured in the season opener and again in early December, the latter required surgery to repair his left knee.
Late in the regular season and with a playoff spot still in doubt, Rinne posted a record of 8-2-1 leading the Predators to the 5th spot in the Western Conference standings. For his efforts, Rinne was named one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL's top goaltender. Rinne's nomination was announced the morning of Game 5 of Nashville's first round matchup with Anaheim.
As good as Rinne is as a goaltender, he's an even better teammate. I was fortunate to be in the O.C. that day, and his humble response when asked for his reaction to his Vezina nomination was touching.
"Obviously, I'm very honored and feel pretty fortunate. I can't say enough about my teammates.They've given me a chance to play my best game every single night. I think that's the reason behind it."
In the playoffs, Rinne was again very good against two extremely talented offensive teams in the Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks. He led the Predators to that elusive first playoff series victory and, as expected, had a couple of highlight-reel saves in the process; most notably his denial of countrymanTeemu Selanne in Game 1 in Anaheim and the overtime save on Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa in Game 2 of that series.
The Grade: This one is a batting practice fastball. Rinne's much-deserved Vezina nomination is a huge honor, and even though he was not one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, a strong argument could be made that no player was more valuable to their team than Rinne, and the Hart is supposed to go to the player
who was most valuable to their team. All that and dude's jersey flew on the Space Shuttle too, so he pretty much has scoreboard on everyone who has ever played in the NHL save for Maurice "The Rocket" Richard. Rinne gets an A, and not just a regular A, one that will make Predator fans sweat as he heads into 2011-12 with the possibility of becoming an unrestricted free agent after next season.