One of the biggest question marks for the Nashville Predators heading into the play-in round is goaltending. The Predators’ goalie situation is a tricky one. On one hand, there’s Pekka Rinne. The 37-year-old has been the franchise goalie for over a decade. He’s backstopped the Preds to many winning seasons and playoff runs. He also had the worst year of his NHL career this season. On the other hand, there’s Juuse Saros. The 25-year-old heir to the throne in goal. After backing up Rinne for the last three-plus seasons, he was the better goalie this season and even took over the starting job towards the end of the year. It’s not an easy choice to make; start the experienced veteran who was struggling, or start the unproven youngster who was playing well?
The Case for Starting Rinne
There is no question, Pekka Rinne had the worst season of his NHL career in 2019-20. He finished the year with a save percentage of just .895 and an abysmal goals-against average of 3.17. However, there is still a case to be made for him to get the start, at least in game one, for the Predators.
Rinne is the far more experienced goaltender. He’s been Nashville’s franchise netminder for over a decade. He also has plenty of playoff experience with the Predators. He’s started 89 playoff games in his career and backstopped the team to the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals.
In addition, so much time has passed since the Predators have last played, Rinne has had ample time to hit the reset button and start fresh. His last start came on March 2nd. Close to five months will have passed before the series against Arizona starts, and that’s the best-case scenario. That is more than enough time for Rinne to put last season behind him. How poorly he played in the regular season may not matter if he can reset and start fresh this summer.
The Case for Starting Saros
The case for starting Juuse Saros is pretty simple. He was the better goaltender this year. He finished the year with a very good save percentage of .914 and a respectable goals-against average of 2.70. Certainly, much better numbers than Rinne had.
Saros is also younger and still on the upswing of his career. He’s 25 years old and getting his first taste of being a starting goalie in the NHL. Rinne is 37 and showing signs of decline. At this point in time, Saros might just flat out be the better goaltender.
Ultimately, it’s up to John Hynes and the Predators’ coaching staff to make the decision on who starts in goal. A case can be made for either goaltender, and the decision will not be an easy one. Pekka Rinne is the more experienced veteran, but Juuse Saros played much better this season.
Personally, I would ride Saros until he gives me a reason not to. However, I would not be surprised if the Predators stay loyal to their longtime franchise goalie and give Rinne the start, at least in game one. No matter who starts, the leash is going to be short because the other goalie will be right there itching to get a chance to play. I’m glad I’m only writing about this and not making the decision myself because no matter who Hynes picks, it’s going to be a heavily scrutinized decision. If things go poorly, the questions will start pouring in about what if the other goalie started. But hey, decisions like these are what coaches get paid for.
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