Juuse Saros began the season as the steadfast backup to longtime starting netminder Pekka Rinne. Saros, however, began to see a lion’s share of starts before the NHL regular season shut down in March. Rinne’s play took a nosedive and Saros quickly became new coach John Hynes’ go-to guy in net. The younger Finn played 15 of Nashville’s final 21 games.
A quick breakdown of Saros’ record in the abbreviated season: 17-12-4, .914 Sv%.
In the play-in series against Arizona: 1-3, .895 Sv%. Woof.
The younger Finn was on a three-game winning streak when the season shut down in March. After starting the season with three straight losses, Saros was up and down. He provided mostly consistent goaltending behind an inconsistent team that often forgot how to defend.
Saros’s rebound control seemed to improve over the course of the shortened season. His size does not afford Saros many chances to “flail” in his net. He is more often than not square to the puck and able to adjust quickly as needed. Saros manages to fill most of the net for longer-range shots, but he struggles with shots resulting from net-front scrambles. His slot save percentage ranked 30th in the NHL (among 54 goaltenders) at .839. However, his inner slot save percentage ranked slightly better (14th in the NHL) at .815.
After John Hynes was hired in Nashville, Saros was the #1 goaltender in shots saved per 60 minutes and second in save percentage (.935%). We’ll certainly have to see how Saros handles a full season under Hynes.
While Saros was not the sole reason Nashville failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in August, he was often shaky and appeared to lack confidence against the Coyotes. He let in several bad goals that seemed to give Arizona life when they needed it the most.
Saros never looked completely comfortable in his net, and the Coyotes certainly took advantage of it. Was this rust? Perhaps. He was most certainly one of the top netminders in the League in mid-March. Could that hot streak in March have carried Nashville into the playoffs had the season not been shut down?
Consistency issues seemed to be a big problem for Saros this summer. Once the 2020-21 season begins in January, will regular play benefit our younger goaltender?
Juuse Saros posted a gorgeous shutout in Winnipeg in January. Although it seems like January 2020 was about seven years ago, Saros stymied fellow Finn Patrik Laine and a host of Jets to give the Predators a win in Winnipeg.
Toward the end of the season, Saros posted back-to-back shutouts against Dallas in a home-and-home series.
2020-2021 is going to be a weird season. The NHL is hoping to open play in early January, and that means a condensed schedule. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are going to have to shift to a more tandem mentality if the Predators are going to have success over a busy season.
This coming season is also Pekka Rinne’s final season on his current contract. I’m not sure he extends with Nashville; retirement seems like the most likely route. He will be 38 in November and his contract expires in 2021. Who will work with Saros next season? Connor Ingram is the likely candidate.
How would you grade Juuse Saros for the 2019-20 season?
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All stats courtesy of evolving-hockey.com.