Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has been playing some of the best hockey of his career over the past few games. He played arguably his best game of the season on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.
Rinne led the Predators to a 1-0 overtime victory over the high-powered Sharks. He made 13 saves in the first period, some of which were of the highlight-reel variety, to keep the Predators afloat when their offensive pressure was pretty much non-existent. He made big pad saves on Tim Kennedy and Martin Havlat as the Sharks were sustaining pressure. Nashville registered just three shots on goal during the opening frame, but were able to survive because of Rinne’s stellar play.
“I was happy that we could go into the second period in a 0-0 situation. They played well in the first. We didn’t, really. Trotzy kind of woke us up between the periods, and we deserved that,” Rinne said.
Rinne continued to stone the San Jose offense during the second period. The Predators took five penalties in the second period, and were down two men during one stretch for 41 seconds. Rinne made some good saves, and the defense made some timely clears to kill off the 5-on-3 disadvantage. After that, the Predators really began to play well en route to their 1-0 victory.
“I think it’s always, momentum wise, really big. They didn’t really have too many good chances. They have so much skill in their lineup, and I thought we did an excellent job on the penalty kill. Guys were blocking shots and just sacrificing their body. It’s great to see, and that’s what we need in this kind of situation where we lost the last two games. It was really important to get the home win. We’ve only had one home win so far, and this was the second one, so obviously a really big one. You always want to play well at home,” Rinne said.
While Nashville’s offense has not been good so far this season, their goaltending and defense have been stellar. Rinne and the Nashville defense have been the main reason why the Predators have started the season off with a 6-3-4 record. Rinne’s hot streak is good for every aspect of Nashville’s game because they know they have arguably the league’s best netminder behind them.
“I always believe that it goes hand-in-hand. There’s nights that the team can kind of bail me out and sometimes the other way around. For longer periods of time, I think it always goes hand-in-hand. You play well and the team plays well in front of you, so that’s been the case so far in the last little bit,” Rinne said.
Defensively, the Predators have been stellar in their last six games. Nashville has only given up seven goals in their past six games. They are starting to gel and get back to their defensive identity that has made them successful over the past few seasons. Even in games where they have lost, the Predators defense has been pretty consistent.
“I thought that defensively we played well against Chicago, too. They got a few lucky goals. For the most part, I think defense is our core. It’s been like that for a long time now,” Rinne said.
Rinne’s effort in the first period allowed the Predators to steal two points. San Jose completely dominated the Predators in the first period. They had several good chances from the slot off of one-timers, and Rinne was their to shut the door every time. His play has Head Coach Barry Trotz making a case for MVP of the entire NHL.
“He’s probably making a case for MVP in the league. Forget our team,” Trotz said. “He is the most valuable player on our team right now, and I could stack him up against anybody who’s having an MVP season right now.”