It's very rare that, when completely healthy, the Nashville Predators have to worry about goaltending.
While it's too early to panic, the performance of Pekka Rinne certainly isn't inspiring confidence right now. Through 23 appearances, Rinne sports an ugly .904 Sv%, is allowing 2.46 goals a game, and has only made 11 quality starts. He's won one game in his last eight, and posted sub-.880 performances in all but one of those. (.917 output in an overtime loss against the Flyers.)
Now, his overall save percentage is going to look bad because his team isn't giving him any help on the penalty kill. That's an entirely different discussion, but we'll keep our focus at 5v5, which the Predators are excelling this season.
21 netminders have played at least 800 5v5 minutes this year. Looking at straight save percentage, Rinne has the 8th best of those goalies at 92.91%. That's not too shabby. However, when you look at his adjusted save percentage, Rinne falls to 18th at 91.62%. To put that in perspective, the only goaltenders with a worse AdjSv% are Mike Smith, Kari Ramo, and Cam Ward.
Here's a basic description on why adjusted save percentage is better, by InGoal magazine. The full article is worth a read, and provides visual examples in its explanation:
Adjusted save percentage is a step up from traditional save percentage because it takes shot location into account. Since goalies have almost no control over where the shots they face come from, they are no longer unfairly punished because they play on a team that gives up more shots closer to the net. Alternatively, a goaltender that faces more shots from a distance does not get rewarded.
So the fact that Rinne's numbers drop over a full point means that his team is masking some of his mistakes. The simple answer as to why this is? The Preds keep many of their opponents shots to the outside, and Rinne is stopping those. But when their opponents are able to get a shot off in the slot, he's having trouble making a save.
Nashville is fantastic at generating scoring chances. They have the second-highest SCF% at even strength. When it comes to high-danger scoring chances, they are the best. Alternatively, they are just as good at limiting scoring chances, both regular and high-danger. (The fact that both of those things are really, really good can't be understated but, again, that's another conversation.)
We can visualize this by looking at Nashville's hextally chart, which shows the number of shots they allow relative to league average.
That the blue is so dark you can barely see the numbers is great. Other teams are having an awful time getting shots off in that area, well below the league average.
Now look at Rinnes individual hextally. In this chart, red is bad.
Shooters are seeing their shots go in right in that area that Nashville is so good at defending. There could be several reasons as to why. Traffic in the crease, screens, deflections and so on. Recently the Predators have been having a hard time clearing people away from the blue paint, and it's led to a few goals.
However, these problems have been going on all year. When we looked at the numbers during the scoreless streak, Rinne was even worse. Over the course of the season, Rinne's isolated save percentages don't look all that great either when compared with those other 20 regular goalies.
|23.84 (fewest)||97.61 (11th)||94.29 (8th)||79.80 (18th)|
Those aren't numbers you'd expect to see from a Vezina nominee from last season. Average, just above average, awful. Now, Rinne has himself said he prefers seeing more shots, but that's more mental than anything else. There's no evidence suggesting he plays better when he faces more shots. Frankly, Rinne needs to play better, and it's disconcerting to remember this was how he ended the season last year.
This isn't to say the losses are all Rinne's fault. Far from it. It's a combination of things, including slumping forwards, poor shooting percentages and lucky breaks the other way. But the performance Nashville is getting from their star workhorse is not good enough right now. His body of work is enough that we should expect him to eventually start playing better. The Preds need him to start stealing some wins, just like they'll need him to be on top of his game whenever they bust through their malaise.