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Are Preds Leaning Too Heavily on Rinne?

By Greg @GreekGoalie35

One of the more recent debates amongst PredNation fans is the ever mounting workload of starting goaltender Pekka Rinne. There is no question that the return of a healthy Rinne is a large contributor to the Preds success this season, but how much can the 32-year old Finn keep up this pace you ask?

First, let’s examine the fact he’s played in 23 of the 26 games thus far. It is worth noting that coach Peter Laviolette hasn’t been forced to play him in back-to-back situations. The Preds have had only one such occurrence thus far and he opted to play back-up Carter Hutton the following night. Things change the rest of the way as the Preds will participate in 9 back-to-back game scenarios. It is safe to assume that Hutton will get at least 9 more starts if those are the only games Laviolette plays him, which is unlikely. Even if that’s the case and everyone stays healthy, Rinne would finish the season with 70 starts. If you think that’s too many, remember that he played in 73 games in the 2011-12 season, the last time the Preds qualified for the playoffs. Before the season began, I predicted he would play somewhere between 65-70 games, and it’s looking like that will be spot on. Something else to consider is that Rinne is not likely to break down physically from being overworked since he’s played sparsely over the last 2 years due to injury and the lockout shortened season.

Another argument against the Preds’ success being sustainable is Rinne’s performance. To this point, he is 17-5-1, with a .931 sv% and a 1.89 GAA.  He has shown in the past that he’s capable of keeping similar numbers over the course of an entire season.  In 2010-11, he was the Vezina runner-up with a .930 sv% and 2.12 GAA while participating in 64 games. If you’re arguing whether he can do this after sustaining a torn labrum, I’ll stop you right there. Do you recall who won the Vezina that same season Rinne was the runner-up? Tim Thomas….. who turned 37 by the end of that season….and he had just come off the same surgery as Rinne.

Some others in the ‘analytics’ community would argue the reason the Preds can’t keep up this pace is PDO, which equates into a team’s sv% + their shooting%. Now without getting into too much detail, they say the Preds total % is way too high to sustain over an entire season. Well, I just explained why Rinne certainly has the ability to continue his outstanding performace.On the flip side, although the Preds have been a much better puck possession team, it hasn’t exactly led to them being a top offense just yet. In fact, they are scoring on just 8% of their shots on goal, so any possible dip in Rinne’s sv%, will likely be countered by an increase in the Preds capitalizing on their scoring chances. Without digressing too much, does anybody think the PP won’t improve as the season progresses? They have ONE PP goal at Bridgestone arena this season, and despite that, have a league-best 11-2-1 home record.

Make no mistake about it, every team will have its ups and downs over the course of a long, grueling season. However, the Preds have shown enough over the first two months to put teams on notice that they are here to stay in an ultra competitive western conference.

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