It was a lackluster season for Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators. Everything that could go wrong for the Predators seemed to go wrong, especially on the injury front. Lots of Nashville’s top forwards missed significant time due to injury, which was a huge contributing factor in the Predators posting a 1-9-1 record in their last 11 games.
Rinne was also battling a nagging injury throughout the season but it was never publicized. He played through it, which was a huge challenge in a season where teams play every other night and sometimes three times in four nights. Rinne is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to examine what needs to be done about his injury that he originally suffered while playing in the KHL during the lockout according to Predators head coach Barry Trotz.
“I couldn’t have played that many games if I was badly hurt,” Rinne said in his exit interview with the media on Sunday. “It’s something that’s been there and something that I need to take care of.”
Rinne’s injury, along with the depletion of Nashville’s roster and the lack of offense, played a role in the less than stellar season for the Finnish netminder. Rinne posted a 15-16-8 record just one season after leading the NHL in wins. His peripheral statistics weren’t great, either, as he posted a 2.43 GAA and .910 save percentage in 43 games.
“He’s our top player. He didn’t have maybe the year he had the year before, but I still think he’s the top goalie in the league. He didn’t get the help that he needed from us as a whole. He battles, competes, and he is a great teammate. Always positive. When you get a goalie like his caliber, it just solidifies your team so much. If we can just find a few more pieces to help him as a group, we’ll be a really good team,” said Predators forward Mike Fisher.
Rinne has been such a fiery competitor throughout his career in Nashville. He’s never had to go through a situation like this past season where the Predators were out of the playoff hunt with several games remaining, and the frustration showed.
“I think we were all frustrated, but his was like a competitive frustration of really wanting to win and wanting to compete, and I think that’s healthy. If you don’t get frustrated from time to time, that’s not a good sign. I think we all were, and he was, showing a little bit of frustration, but he channels it so well. He handles that really well,” Fisher said.
Now the Predators have to move forward and address some of the issues that came up in the 2012-13 season. Nashville really struggled in certain areas of the game that normally are their strengths, and that is something they will have to be mindful of when pursuing possible free agents or considering trades.
“I think with the injuries we exposed some of the weaknesses we have. It’s tough to point any fingers on any certain things. If you started talking about the game, we’re usually good on the penalty kill and we were terrible this year. Stuff like that. All that is going to help,” Rinne said.
The Predators had so many problems on the ice this season that it’s hard to really pinpoint a single thing that was the main cause of their struggles. Injuries played a big factor, but the Predators were not playing well before all the injuries happened. They really struggled to score goals this season, finishing tied with Florida for dead last in the league in goals per game with 2.27.
“It’s tough to say any one thing. There’s a lot of things, obviously, that you can improve in a season like this, but hopefully we can see that over the summer start it next season,” Rinne said.
“An example of our season was the last five minutes of that game (Saturday) night. Columbus had a good push on, they get a tying goal. The second goal, they throw it in front of the net and Shea (Weber) whacks it in the net through Mason’s legs rather than them score. So it’s 2-1. We have a push on. We have a great chance. The puck rolls over Bobrovsky’s shoulder on to the goal line, and it just sort of stops. Their guy gets it and throws it out, and they end up scoring on the empty net in the last 35 seconds or something. That was like our season,” Trotz said.
Sometimes, a season just boils down to things not going right at all. That was the case for Rinne and the Predators this season. They didn’t seem to get any breaks when they needed them, and that caused them to finish 14th in the Western Conference.
“We say there is hockey gods. I’m not atheist or anything like that. There is such a thing as hockey gods,” Trotz said. “We got all the breaks last year. We got none this year.”