By all standards, this was a sub-par season for Pekka Rinne. Over the years he has consistently produced outstanding numbers that have cemented him as one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. When he did not perform to expectation, there was always some nagging injury that he played through. This year, there was no reason for him not to be the outstanding goaltender he could be. Nevertheless, this past year was perhaps Rinne's most disappointing season in his NHL career.
Ironically, while he should have been an All-Star numerous times already in his career, he finally became one during his worst season in recent memory. For the first time in a while, Rinne remained relatively healthy throughout the season. However, he did not perform to the levels that the Nashville faithful have come accustom.
His regular season numbers were lousy. Among goaltenders who played more than forty games, his 2.48 goals against-average placed him nineteenth, somewhere you do not expect to see from a man who has in previous seasons singlehandedly put the Predators in the playoffs. Even more concerning was Rinne's .908 percent save percentage which placed him 26th in the league among the same group of goaltenders. That save percentage placed him sixth among goaltenders in the Central Division.
(Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
In the playoffs, Rinne was again statistically one of the worst goaltenders. However, a lot of this came from the poor penalty kill unit in front of him and, if you look at the goals that he gave up, very few were his fault. Numerous times, we even saw a flash of that vintage Rinne, gloving down any and everything that came in his direction.
With that being said, there used to be a sense of invincibility that Rinne projected. The Predator fan base has been tricked by Rinne for so long into thinking that his jaw-dropping saves were the norm for goaltenders. Hopefully this year will have been a blip in his otherwise stellar career, especially since he is signed for an annual salary of $7 million for the next four years, but with Rinne only getting older, there needs to be concern that his younger, elite self may not appear on the ice as often.
Best moment of the season?
Rinne had a number of shining moments in the first round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Leading 2-1 with six minutes left of game six, Rinne showed that he still had the ability to play in big games and steal a win.
Nashville's defense was atrocious in the third period, giving the Ducks chance after chance. Corey Perry in particular had multiple attempts that had no business staying out of the net. However, Rinne remained a rock in the Nashville net and brought the Predators out of the first round for the first time in the post-Ryan Suter era.
However, Rinne's most impressive save of the year was this gem against the Arizona Coyotes. The young Max Domi had a fine rookie campaign, but he still probably is baffled how this puck did not find its way past Rinne.
Worst moment of the season?
There are unfortunately many more of these moments to chose from than previous seasons, but game seven against San Jose sticks out like a sore thumb.
Despite Rinne being one of the only players who really looked like they cared about the game, he conceded five goals in a 5-0 loss. While one can certainly argue that Shea Weber and Roman Josi were at fault for those goals, a younger Rinne perhaps could have kept the Predators in the game. When comparing Rinne's peak against the Vancouver Canucks in 2012 to this season, it becomes painfully clear that his play is regressing.
Finally, regardless if you sympathize with Rinne's emotions after the fifth goal in game seven against San Jose or not, one of the biggest keys to being a successful goaltender is not letting your emotions take control. This goal, as with many others that night, can easily be blamed on the defense leaving Rinne helpless. That being said, having a short term memory and being able to think "on to the next one" is critical to goaltending. His frustration was certainly understandable.
Trending up or down?
Trending down. Rinne is not getting any younger and, if this past season shows anything, it is that the Predators need an additional stable option in the pipes so that Rinne can have more rest.
He has been overworked for the majority of his career and he has reached a point where he is unable to simultaneously deliver stellar performances and play 66 games per season. In the hyper-competitive Central Division, you cannot have the sixth best goaltender if you want to be a contender.
FINAL GRADE: C-
It is no secret: Rinne did not perform this past season as expected. Hopefully he is able to shake off this past year and get to work next season, as it may be his best chance in his long career to win the cup.
The entire OTF staff will put their thoughts together and voice their opinions on player grades at the conclusion of this series of articles.