(Photo by: Don McPeak/USA Today Sports)
Despite facing adversity, Nashville Predators' goaltender Pekka Rinne has been able to push through that by winning games and playing well. Throughout this season, Pekka Rinne has shown flashes of excellence, but flashes of mediocrity as well. His inconsistency of play has been the trend of not just an aspect of his game, but the entire play of the Predators night in and night out.
It isn't fair to blame all the inconsistency on Rinne. He has been the reason they have won a majority of their games because of his ability to keep the puck out of the net through "stand on your head" saves. This season, it has appeared to be the players up front who control the way the Finnish goaltender will play.
Rinne feeds off of excellence around him. If the players in front don't play well and aren't generating any scoring chances in a game, Rinne won't as well. There may be a tick that goes off in his head during a game that says, "Why should I put forth the effort if they aren't going to do so for me?"
That is dangerous thinking, but every goaltender has gone through in their mind one way or another, no matter how much they don't want to.
The inconsistencies Rinne has faced this season haven't exactly hurt the club as much as it has helped, afterwards that is. After an awful night between the pipes, he will return the next game in an attempt to make up for. For example, look to the game earlier this season on the road against the Los Angeles Kings when he gave up five goals and had to be pulled. The next game against the Edmonton Oilers, he posted a shutout. His bounce back performances are what make Rinne a top goaltender not only in the NHL, but in the world.
Rinne has a record of 10-8-5, 5th in league in goals against average with 2.00, 6th in save percentage with .924 and first with five shutouts.
Throughout the course of this 48 game season, Rinne has been hard on himself for some of the mistakes he has made. Just this past weekend, hit an all-time high when he told the media after a shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild , "I've been terrible in shootouts. It's embarrassing."
Even though Rinne was understandably frustrated, it isn't exactly what a coach wants to hear. The goaltending position is 80% mental, 20% physical and saying that could lead to lack of focus and increased frustration in the future.
Luckily, Rinne was able to bounce back after the rough shootout loss by recording his fifth shutout in only 24 games. Last season, he started in 73 games and only recorded five shutouts. If there was an 82 game season and Rinne started in 73 games, he would be on track for fifteen shutouts at the end of the season. He would finish second all-time and tie with four other goaltenders, including Tony Esposito, in the record for shutouts in a single season.
Rinne will look to break his current record of nine shutouts, set in the 2010-11 season. Expect about twenty more starts until the regular season is over.