Originally posted on The Predatorial  |  Last updated 6/18/13
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua Nashville entered the compressed 2012-2013 season with nearly the same lineup and near-identical goaltending as they did the season before, that led them to the Western Conference Semifinals prior to being dispatched by the Phoenix Coyotes in five games. Pekka Rinne was coming off his best season with the Predators, 43-18-8 with five shutouts, earning him a Vezina Trophy finalist nomination. Through his previous four seasons with Nashville, Rinne had never finished with a sub-.500 record with the team. Unfortunately in 43 games with the Predators this past season, that would change. From Then to Now Rinne’s 43-18-8 record in the 2011-2012 season not only broke franchise records with the Predators and was easily the best goaltender record in the team’s history, however he also lead the entire league in wins (43), was seventh overall in save percentage, fifteenth in goals against average, and added five more shutouts to his resume. Earning a Vezina nomination was the least the voters could do for Rinne’s efforts with Nashville. It’s a stark contrast to what the team saw from the stellar Finnish netminder this year. Finishing with a record of 15-16-8, Rinne was in the bottom of the league in goals against average and save percentage, yet still ranked at the top in shutouts (5, first overall in the NHL) and minutes played (sixth). Interestingly enough, his stats still compare evenly to his career numbers with the organization, but in a shortened season things carry a bit more weight than normal. Beyond the Stats Rinne had an off-year; that much is crystal clear. It was rumored he suffered an injury nearing the end of his stint in the KHL during the lockout. While played off as just speculation and heresay, head coach Barry Trotz admitted to Rinne battling an injury all season (which he needed arthoscopic hip surgery to correct). His teammates have also been vocal about their poor play in front of him during the majority of the year as well. Yet, there were still glimpses of the same Rinne that we’ve been accustomed to at points throughout the season. History shows that players have successfully came back from the same surgery Rinne went through, including fellow countryman Nicklas Backstrom and recent cup-winner Tim Thomas. There’s no reason to think that Rinne won’t come back to his pre-injury state. The Best of Rinne Even in a down season, there were still a plethora of highlight-reel saves from Rinne. Including this  gem of Rinne shutting down Matt Duchene on a completely wide-open empty net: Another of Rinne ending a Nail Yakupov chance by gloving down a speeding puck off the stick of the Oilers budding superstar: Finally, a sequence of saves against the Detroit Red Wings near the end of the regular season: Return to Form? Rinne’s surgery was the smart and correct way to go for him to get back to the point he was prior to the lockout-shortened season this year. Will he be 100%? There’s no reason he shouldn’t be and other goaltenders have come back from the same surgery to be just as good (or better) as they were prior to the injury. It’s all a matter of the intensity of Rinne’s rehab and off-season training that will determine where his play will be at come the start of the season in the fall. However, knowing Rinne’s attention to detail, appreciation of the game, and his will to succeed and win, there should be little doubt of how quickly he’ll want to regain his previous Vezina-finalist form. FINAL GRADE: C Regardless of what the reasons were of his down year, the fact still remains that the impeccable Pekka Rinne had a rough go-around this season. Taking into consideration some of the factors that were out of his control (like the players playing in front of him) and him being mostly injured throughout the entire regular season yet still finding ways to earn wins and provide spectacular saves, he garners a solid C from us.
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