The Nashville Predators enter the 2019-20 season following a series of major offseason changes by David Poile. The trade of P.K. Subban, the disruption of “the Big Four”, and the arrival of Matt Duchene all lead to an intriguing sea change for the Predators as they go for their third consecutive Central Division title.
But when it comes to the goaltenders? Not much has changed.
Truly the backbone of the Predators over the last decade or so, quality goaltending continues to be a strength of this team and that will not change this year.
Nashville Predators: Who’s Here
In Nashville, once again, it’s going to be one of the league’s best tandems in goal: Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros.
Outside of Nashville, the Preds made one small trade in the offseason for a young goalie. Connor Ingram came over from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a 7th round pick. Ingram was at one point a highly touted prospect that for some reason never panned out in Tampa. Ingram could push for a starting job in Milwaukee, though that job is currently held by Troy Grosenick.
There’s a lot of strengths with the Preds goaltending. They have veteran leadership, as Rinne enters his 14th NHL season with over 600 NHL starts. They have an excellent young goalie in Juuse Saros, who has a .920 career save percentage in 70 starts so far.
But probably the best thing the goaltenders have going for them is confidence. For the past several years, the coaching staff and front office of the Preds have been very clear that goaltending is the strength of their team. They’ve been relying upon strong goaltending (sometimes almost entirely) in order to have some of the franchise’s most successful years since 2016.
For goaltenders, confidence is half the battle. If you feel good about your game, and your teammates and coaches trust you, you can go out and perform at a high level.
Let’s start talking about possible weaknesses by mentioning one more strength: health.
Right now, the Predators’ two goalies are healthy, which is always a good sign. Pekka Rinne missed some time early last season with an undisclosed injury, but was fine after that. Juuse Saros has not had any major health concerns in his first four years in the league.
But with Rinne turning 37 years old in November this year, health has to always be on the back of everyone’s mind.
At some point, we know that Father Time will catch up to Rinne. Some of us thought that might have happened a few years ago, then Rinne proved us wrong emphatically with a Stanley Cup run in 2017 and a Vezina Trophy in 2018.
Will Rinne continue to prove us wrong? Can he continue to put up top 10 goalie numbers as a 37 year old? If so, then there is nothing to worry about here.
If not, then the real strength of the Preds could be tested.
I think the easy answer here is Juuse Saros, but I’m gonna go off the board.
Connor Ingram looked really solid in rookie camp this year. He is fundamentally sound and does a lot of things well in net. He also kind of breaks the mold of the prototypical Preds goalie prospect. He is not European. He is not abnormally large or abnormally small. He could otherwise blend in with the rest of the skaters, standing at 6’1″ and 200 pounds.
Ingram also has a knack for making spectacular saves, like this one:
I think if Ingram continues to perform well, and if Grosenick struggles, he could push for the starting job in Milwaukee. If that happens, you could potentially see Ingram make a spot start or two in Nashville.
We could have a long discussion over how many starts Juuse Saros should take away from Pekka Rinne. There’s a lot to giving more starts to Saros this year than he’s ever had. He had a career high 27 starts last year and I think he probably gets at least 30 this year.
But there’s no question: Pekka Rinne is still 100% the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators.
Why? Because he’s the best goalie on the team right now and he’s one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
Just check out where he ranks among the league’s goalies in some important stat categories. This is among all goalies with at least 1000 even strength minutes played since 2017 (a total of 71 players) courtesy of Corsica Hockey.
- Overall save percentage: 92.3% (6th)
- Even strength save percentage: 92.2% (3rd)
- High danger save percentage: 84.7% (6th)
- Goals saved above average: 29.12 (3rd)
Those numbers add up to Pekka Rinne being one of the best goaltenders in the NHL over the last couple of seasons. With him in net, the Predators are a strong team and should contend for a Stanley Cup yet again.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —