Injuries Forcing Nashville to Lean on Goaltending

Despite the injuries, Rinne and Saros are keeping the Predators in the race.

When the Predators take the ice against Vancouver on Tuesday, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm will be the only skaters to have played in all 44 games so far this season.

That’s a stark contrast from last season where the team had nine skaters who played in at least 78 regular season games while four played the entire campaign.

Injuries are beginning to pile up at an almost laughable rate as Roman Josi was placed on IR after getting knocked out of the Boston game on Thursday night. That added to the list of the already sidelined P.K. Subban, Miikka Salomaki, and Colin Wilson. James Neal made his first appearance in almost two weeks against the Avalanche.

Considering the state of affairs, the Predators are performing well, getting three straight wins after Saturday’s come from behind win. The reasoning behind the results can be largely placed on two men from Finland.

Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have put together a string of great performances in order to give their team a chance to win. Until the injury list begins to shorten up, that’s exactly what Nashville will need to stay afloat in the playoff race.

That statement would have been rather perplexing before the season started for a team that many considered contenders, but where goaltending was the biggest question mark. For the time being, that has completely turned on it’s head.

Not only has Rinne been able to improve his play from last season, but Saros has become a rookie sensation in his eight starts so far. A .957 Sv% for the 21-year-old speaks for itself.

The benefits of Saros’ excellent play goes beyond his save percentage. He has given Rinne the opportunity to receive adequate rest without a drop-off in goaltending. The biggest talking point that surrounded Pekka the past few years has been his outrageous workload compared to most starting goalies.

Many believed the reasoning behind Rinne’s stretches of bad play was due to his lack of rest. It seemed Pekka was only on the bench in back-to back situations.

Outside of his injury-riddled 13’-14’ season, Rinne has been in the top ten in games played every year since 2009. Three of those seasons saw him in the top five.

With Saros now in the fold, Rinne is on pace for his fewest starts in a full season without major injury, 61, since his second year as the starter. That number will probably decrease even more as the season goes along.

A fresher, likely better Rinne down the stretch is a great recipe for success.

Due to the injury bug, Nashville’s possession numbers have slipped lately and goal scoring isn’t as prominent. It’s hard to expect anything less with the roster they’re currently icing.

The next stretch of games is vital for the Predators. If they are able to keep pace in the playoff race until their lineup reaches close to full strength, it puts them in a very favorable position.

The games likely won’t be pretty. It may have a Trotz-esque feel to them as Nashville tries to squeak out wins in low scoring affairs. But they count just the same.

It may stray from the preseason narrative of the Predators, but the goaltending duo from Finland will likely be the reason this team overcomes the onslaught of injuries and pushes towards the postseason.