Heading into this season a lot of eyes were on Pekka Rinne. There were plenty of headlines stating that the Nashville Predators will be a Stanley Cup contender if Rinne posts above-average numbers.
The big Finn caught plenty of criticism during the 2015-16 season and rightly so as he posted his worst full-season save percentage in a Nashville sweater at .908.
That .908 save percentage was in fact the 10th worst among all NHL goalies with at least 1,510 minutes played last season. Also, his high-danger save percentage of .752 was the 16th worst among every goaltender that played at least one minute in the NHL last year.
This year Rinne’s numbers are much improved.
Before we get into Rinne’s individual statistics we need to take a look at what the Preds’ defensive numbers, as in the type and number of shots allowed, looked like on Feb. 15 of last season compared to what they look like today to better understand what is happening on the ice in front of Rinne.
Before we dive in it is worth noting that Rinne played in 46 games when the calendar hit Feb. 15, 2016 while this year he has played in only 43 games.
If Nashville’s defense was known for one thing a year ago it was limiting the opposition of getting high-danger shots (shots from the slot and inside/below the face-off circles) to Rinne. This time a year ago Rinne faced 205 high-danger shots during 5-on-5 play which averages to 4.46 shots per game. This year he’s seen only 158 high-danger shots which averages to 3.68 shots per game.
Now you’re wondering how many of these high-danger shots he has allowed to get by him. On 205 high-danger shots during 5-on-5 play this time last season he allowed 48 goals which gave him a high-danger save percentage of .766. This season he’s allowed 35 of those 158 shots get past him for a high-danger save percentage of .779.
While those numbers aren’t too different from one another, his medium-danger numbers are drastically different. Medium-danger shots come from the center blue line point, to the top of the slot, and over to each hashmark in the face-off circles.
In his 46 games played this time a year ago Rinne saw just 280 medium-danger shots (6.09 per game) during 5-on-5 play. This season the Finnish puck stopper has already seen 356 medium-danger shots at 5-on-5 in three fewer games. Rinne is seeing 8.28 medium-danger shots per game this year.
While his team in front of him is surrendering far more medium-danger shots this season than they did at this point a year ago, Rinne’s medium-danger save percentage is still highly respectable.
Rinne has allowed only 23 of those medium-danger shots get by him for a medium-danger save percentage of .935 so far this season. He allowed 20 of those 280 medium-danger shots last season to light the lamp giving him a medium-danger save percentage of .929.
So when it comes to medium and high-danger shots combined during 5-on-5 play, Rinne has seen 514 this season in just 43 games while this time a year ago he had faced just 485 in 46 games.
His combined save percentage is far better this season however (.886) compared to what it looked like this time last season (.713) despite seeing more dangerous shots already this year.
In summary, Rinne has been far better at making the big-time saves so far this season than what he showed a year ago up to this point.
With that being said, it’s not necessarily a great thing that Rinne has seen more medium and high-danger shots up to this point of the season compared to this point a year ago. Nashville however has allowed the second fewest scoring chances in the NHL (282) during 5-on-5 play and fourth fewest (412) in all situations, so the defense is doing their part in that regard.
Remember, this year’s numbers reflect Rinne’s 43 games played while last year’s numbers reflect his efforts in 46 games played. It’s worth pointing this out yet again to put a little bit of perspective, and at the very least belief, that rest for Rinne is affecting his game in a positive manner.
Rinne has started 43 of the team’s 56 games this year while this time last year he had started in 46 of Nashville’s 54 games played.
As for some other Rinne statistics from this year compared to last year:
Through 43 games last season (all situations): 108 goals allowed .904 save percentage, .975 low-danger save percentage, .911 medium-danger save percentage, .761 high-danger save percentage.
Through 43 games this season (all situations): 100 goals allowed, .920 save percentage, .979 low-danger save percentage, .923 medium-danger save percentage, .786 high-danger save percentage
All stats via Corsica.