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Pekka Rinne, the 2008-9 Forechecker's Forecast

Today's projection should be an easy one. Coming into training camp Pekka Rinne has 3 career games of NHL service, so normally one might wonder if there's much history to leverage in terms of predicting future performance. But with the Predators, we have a very clear guideline to follow. Each of the last two seasons have seen Nashville's backup goaltender steal the spotlight with a performance among the very best in the NHL. After all, Chris Mason's 2006-7 season was, by some measures, tops in the league that year, and Dan Ellis led all goaltenders in both regular season and playoff save percentage in 2007-8.

What then, to expect of young Mr. Rinne, who, after salutary duty in Milwaukee the last three years (including an AHL All-Star appearance last season), has been anointed the #2 man in the Predators goal? First, expect a very different profile in net; Rinne stands 6'5", a fair bit taller than Ellis (6'0") or previous #1 Chris Mason (also 6'0"). It will be interesting to see how the team adapts to having him in goal as a changeup from the nimble, puckhandling Ellis; there were times last year when there seemed to be confusion between the defense corps and goaltender when Ellis or Mason would get pulled in the middle of a game. For instance, a defenseman would swoop behind the net to pick up a loose puck only to find Ellis already there playing it ahead, a stark difference from Mason, who would let his blueliners handle it more often.

I would guess that Rinne will get a decent workload, due largely to a couple reasons why Ellis's workload needs to be relieved. This will be his first season as a designated top starter, so right there one wouldn't figure Ellis for a Nabokov-like 77 games. In addition, he faced some issues maintaining his playing weight down the stretch and into the playoffs last spring, so over the course of the long NHL season, it makes sense to manage his playing time somewhat, if only to ensure he's fresh for a playoff run. Rinne might play something like 25-30 games, depending on how Ellis's weight management program goes.

So, for the official Forechecker's Forecast...

Forechecker's Forecast, 2008-9 NHL Regular Season
Player GP W L GAA Save Pct.
Pekka Rinne 28 13 12 2.70 .905