This is the first year that Juuse Saros has been named the clear top goaltender for the Nashville Predators going into the season, and so far, he has been rock solid even through some must-see games. His stats are not mind-blowing, but if you have followed this team, you know that Saros’ numbers bode extremely well for both him and the team.
While he has been steadily improving since he assumed a full-time job at the NHL level and is still on track to be a Vezina calibre net-minder from here on out, one of his biggest problems has been consistency. Particularly, while the ends of his seasons have been out of this world, he has tended to not start them well.
That cannot be said now, as Saros is posting solid numbers and is once again, one of the main reasons for his team being in games for much of the time. In his first six games to start the season, he has made some magnificent saves, but more importantly, has barely struggled to stop pucks in front of him.
For Predators fans and the organization, the main question concerning Saros was whether or not he could overcome his early-season woes. It likely was one of the reasons for the Predators’ front office hesitating to sign him for so long, as it was fair to question whether he could truly be dependable at all times.
So far, Saros has answered that question with a resounding yes, showing that he has, is, and will continue to improve as his career goes on. And if we think about how good he was to end last year, if he is truly the type of player who gets better as the season goes on, just imagine how lethal he could be down the stretch this season.
Now, it is still way early in the season, and Saros’ stats and performance could take a dip as January approaches, but you should expect him to either maintain his pace or continually improve. And it is not just because he is still young and approaching his prime by the day.
If we think about the past two seasons, those have been the ones in which Saros has gradually earned his way into the full-time starting role. He did not have that to begin 2019-2020, and he really did not when the Predators travelled to Edmonton for the Stanley Cup qualifiers in the summer of 2020, even though he played all the games.
Sure, the lack of rest definitely contributed to his weak performance in the bubble, but regardless, the constant talk of “who should start in the net” and the Predators losing could not have helped his performance. And even last year, even though he was the “starter” on night one and played more games than Pekka Rinne, the net was largely shared between the two of them.
It was always going to be hard for Saros to get into a rhythm because he was always sitting every two to three games, not to mention the number of back-to-back games on the schedule. This season, none of those same concerns apply.
The net clearly belongs to Saros, and he will only rest on nights that he absolutely has to for the sake of his health and endurance. Did you see what happened last year when he started to pick up steam and the net was his without question?
That is about what we should expect this year. There is no doubt that he was one of the very best goaltenders at the end of the season last season, and with time and opportunity, there is no reason to believe that he should not win a Vezina trophy at some point in his career, or always be right in the conversation.
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