I accepted the challenge of objectively reviewing Pekka Rinne’s 2018-2019 season with some trepidation. It isn’t an easy assignment for me. You see, Pekka is not just my patronus, he is also my beloved #hiptwin whose autographed jersey in the physical therapy office and stellar play on the ice was my inspiration as I fought through three years of the same hip injury he bounced back from during his 2013-2014 season. My mantra through pain was, “If Pekks can win a Vezina after having this injury, I can once again return to my stay-at-home mom glory, too.” To ask me to give a critical analysis of Pekka Rinne is like asking me to offer a completely unbiased critique of my own children. (I mean, do my children have faults? Of course. But can I actually list them out publically with supporting analytics? Well, yes. But it is much more difficult with someone who has never once complained about a meal I’ve made or expected me to fold his laundry.)
Let’s start with the obvious. Rinne is a top NHL goalie, and this season’s statistics reveal another stellar performance between the pipes. He started 56 games and ended the regular season at 30-19-4. His 2018-2019 GAA of 2.42 ranks him in the top 10 for goalies playing 30 games or more.
While Rinne’s save percentage of .918 dropped slightly from his Vezina-winning season (.927), it remains a testament to his continued production as a top goalie. His GSAA at 12.55 rank him as #14 in the league. With such consistently high caliber goaltending (from both Rinne and the Robin to his Batman, Juuse Saros) and some other glaring team deficits (need we revisit the 12.94% power play debacle?), it is easy to forget what it feels like to agonize about goaltending after a game.
That isn’t to say there are no concerning areas of note. This shot map shows that while Rinne faced a league average number of shots, the highest concentration came right in his front yard. The fact that the “Without Rinne” shot map looks so different could mean we need to keep our eyes on second and third shot opportunities around the net.
One of the worst moments of the 2018-2019 season was Rinne’s injury during the October 19 game against Calgary. After an odd looking collision with Kevin Fiala, Rinne continued play but eventually left the game in the third period and missed the next five games with the ambiguous “lower body injury” (anything but the hip!).
There were also a rare few of those hard-to-quantify “off” games that people have muttered about regarding Rinne—possibly the most painful one to watch was Game 4 in the playoff series against the Dallas Stars. After an early power play goal, a quick goal off a defensive zone faceoff, a rebound goal, and another power play goal—all in the first period—Rinne was pulled. While he can’t take all the blame for those four goals, it was excruciating to watch our stalwart goalie leave a playoff game after less than one period with a 0.50 save percentage.
Although not a trap I’m likely to ever fall into (see above introduction), it could be easy to take for granted just how incredible some of Pekka’s saves have been this past season. Let’s feast on a buffet of his awesomeness for a moment.
(To quote Captain America, I could do this all day...)
Rinne also had a redemptive and outstanding game against Pittsburgh, getting that Penguin monkey off his back, on March 29, stopping 42 of 43 shots.
At 36 years old, there are certainly people wondering just how much more Pekka Rinne has in the tank. He isn’t one of them, and neither am I. Barring serious injury (not the hip!) and with a high-caliber back up available to rest our elder statesman as needed, I don’t predict a major drop off in Pekka’s production this coming season. Eventually the fountain of goalie youth will run dry, but I don’t think we are anywhere near there yet. With a contract through 2022, I predict Pekka will continue his excellent play for the Predators as they chase the Stanley Cup again this season.
I only deducted points because his numbers didn’t quite meet his Vezina season performance and because of those few “off” games, but when he takes the ice in a few weeks you can bet I will be humming the Chicago classic, “You’re the Inspiration”.
What grade would you give Pekka Rinne for his 2018-2019 season?
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