Nashville’s goaltending remains a position of massive strength. Pekka Rinne, the almost 37-year-old workhorse of the Nashville net, is a reliable goaltender in most every outing. He puts together video highlight packages every season that continue to impress and wow fans everywhere.
Right behind Rinne is future starter Juuse Saros. On any other team, Saros would be a likely starter right now.
The Nashville goaltending pipeline is pretty exciting as well—we’ll have more on one of their prospects later today. Here’s a brief preview of the Nashville net for the 2019-2020 season.
There’s not much to add about Pekka Rinne that hasn’t been already covered. The veteran netminder has suited up in 623 games for the Nashville Predators. The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner is an undisputed leader for the Predators.
Rinne was signed last November to a $5 million/season contract that will bring him to UFA status in the summer of 2021. He’s 37 this season, but his numbers remain outstanding for a goalie who’s played over 600 NHL games.
In 56 games last season, Rinne was 30-19-4 with a very nice .918 Sv%. With such a talented backup, Rinne’s total games played has dropped over the last few seasons. Last season’s 56 games are the fewest he’s played since the 2013-2014 season.
Aside from occasional “bad” starts, Rinne’s regular season performance is among the top goaltenders in the League. His playoff performance has been less than stellar, a definite cause for concern for those of us who are tired of seeing the Predators stumble in the first round or two of the playoffs.
In 6 playoff games in 2019, Rinne posted a .905 Sv%. While not completely responsible for two straight seasons’ worth of poor playoff performance, Rinne notably had a very poor Game 4. He was pulled from the game early.
The net in Nashville is still Rinne’s. We’ve said this for a few years now, and unless his performance rapidly declines, I don’t see any reason for Rinne to give up his starter status.
Young Juuse Saros could be the starter on nearly any other NHL team. His starts have been increasing as Rinne gets older. He played in a career-high 31 games last season, posting a 27-17-10 record.
Saros often gets the nod on the second game of back-to-back contests, putting him at a disadvantage behind a tired team. Saros stole a few games in the second half of the season with very little help from the other 5 players on the ice.
Could this be the season Rinne starts fewer than 50 games? Saros has proven he’s more than ready to shoulder some of the load. Nashville has secured division, conference, and President’s Trophy banners. The Predators have the rare luxury of playing their backup in order to rest their starter.
Here’s one of my favorite saves by Saros.
We’ve lauded his quickness in the crease and been completely in awe of his positioning. Saros is rarely out of position and he seems to read the play before it happens. He will only continue to improve.
If preseason play is any indication of regular season performance, I’m expecting big things from Saros and Rinne this season. Rinne was absolutely dialed-in in his few preseason appearances with Saros taking the bulk of the work. Both goalies challenge each other to be better every day.
In the Pipeline
Nashville acquired goaltender Connor Ingram from the Tampa Bay system over the summer. He projects to tend net with Troy Grosenick in Milwaukee. Both goaltenders are more than capable at the AHL level. We could see a split in goaltending duties in Milwaukee.
Ken Appleby was signed in the summer to provide reliable goaltending in the ECHL. Nashville’s new affiliate, the Florida Everblades, will benefit from Appleby’s massive frame in net. Appleby would be the likely recall to Milwaukee in the event of an injury or if one of the Milwaukee goaltenders were to be recalled to Nashville.
This season, I expect to see at least 35 games from Juuse Saros. Nashville has benefitted from his incredible work in net in Rinne’s absence, but seeing him start more games will give us a better idea of how the coaching staff plans to make the transition from #35 to #74.
Nashville is one of few NHL clubs that have absolutely no questions in net. From Bridgestone Arena to the ECHL squad in Florida, Nashville’s goaltending is set for more than a few seasons. In a few years, overseas and NCAA goaltenders will make the transition to the professional game, and Nashville will have plenty of opportunity for their younger netminders.