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Nashville Predators 2016-17 Player Report Cards: Juuse Saros

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The next generation of handsome Finnish goaltenders joined the NHL full time last year. How did our Little Bear do?

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Season Overview

For those who would like a refresher on the back story of Juuse Saros, Christopher Link shared “The Legend of Little Bear” in December 2015. This is a great read - go ahead we’ll wait.

The Legend of Little Bear

“Daddy” and Little Bear

Ok, now that we are all on the same page, how did Saros do in his first (mostly) full year in the NHL?

Courtesy of hockey-reference.com

The statistic that jumped out at me was that despite not being called up full time until the end of November, Saros still started 19 games in the regular season. In comparison, Carter Hutton started 15 games in his final season as a Predator. This increase in rest for Pekka Rinne had to be a factor in his fantastic playoff performance. Hopefully, Saros will be able to start even more games next year.

From an overall save percentage and goals against perspective, Saros had a good year. A look at the underlying game statistics looks a little more like a roller coaster that is coming in on a steady track.

In the first seven games he started this year, his save percentage was a blistering .955 with a goal allowed average of 1.286. In addition to Saros' skill, this start was probably impacted by a lack of tape/preparation materials available to teams.

In the middle seven games, it looks as if teams were a bit more prepared for him and let's face it, the pace he was on was not sustainable over the course of a rookie year. His save percentage in the middle seven games was .906 with a goals allowed average of 2.857.

Now would come the test. Teams had adjusted to Saros - how would he respond? In the final seven games, his statistics inched back up a bit with a save percentage of .911 and a goals allowed average of 2.571. As these statistics contain one of his worst save percentage games (see his Worst Moment below), it looks like Saros found his footing again.

Courtesy of hockey-reference.com

Looking at his performance in all situations, we can see that he is very consistent. In comparison, Pekka Rinne was .928 five on five, but only .863 short-handed. A portion of this may be how the team is playing in front of them in terms of trust, but it also seems to indicate a greater consistency across situations from Saros.

Best Moment of the Season

Is there any question? It is the December 30th shutout against the St. Louis Blues. Juuse made many excellent saves (some of which are contained in this video) to earn his first NHL shutout. This video ends before his moment with Pekka, but don't worry, I've got your back.

Worst Moment of the Season

It was hard to find any really bad moments, so I went with his lowest save percentage game of the season. Also against the Blues, Saros stopped only 21 of 25 shots for a .840 save percentage, easily his worst of the season.

Trending Up or Trending Down

Slightly up, because really he was never very low. As mentioned above, after a dip mid-season as teams scouted and prepared for him, Juuse slowly began improving again down the stretch. Continuing on that trend should garner him even more playing time next year.

Final Grade: B+

Truthfully, I keep going back and forth between an A- and a B+. As a rookie called up unexpectedly to be the full time back up, Juuse Saros did a great job. He came out like a house on fire and later remained trustworthy enough to give Rinne some real rest down the stretch. That said, I think he still has some learning to do in facing the speed and skill of NHL goal scorers. This will come with time and more experience. As a bonus, he seems to have slotted nicely into Hutton's role as Pekka's good friend. The future is there for the taking Little Bear - go get it!

And finally I'll leave you with this. The full moment can be seen at 3:40 in the Beneath The Ice video entitled -

"Rinne Cooks for the Finns"

nhl.com

Poll

How would you grade Juuse Saros’ performance this season?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    A
    (38 votes)
  • 37%
    A-
    (107 votes)
  • 26%
    B+
    (76 votes)
  • 14%
    B
    (40 votes)
  • 3%
    B-
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    C+
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    C
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Give the kid a break already
    (7 votes)
282 votes total Vote Now

(All statistical data from Hockey-Reference.com. Video and hockey photos from NHL.com. Bear photo by me.)