The Nashville Predators proved they’re a legitimate contender in Rinne’s absence

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:13 am by Cam Lewis

On Wednesday, Pekka Rinne was cleared to rejoin the Nashville Predators, meaning he’ll likely be back in net today against the Anaheim Ducks.

When Rinne got injured three weeks ago, the Nashville Predators owned the best record in the NHL. At the time, he had accounted for all 29 of his team’s wins and had earned some recognition as a potential Hart Trophy candidate. In three weeks without Rinne, the Predators posted a 4-2-2 record, maintaining their spot at the top of the league’s standings, which they share in a tie with the same Ducks they’ll face today.

Without Rinne in net, the Predators were forced to prove to the league that they weren’t pretenders who gained success on the back of exceptionally strong goaltending. 

When Rinne went down, I did a quick analysis to see if the team was actually legitimate, because I was skeptical. I looked at Rinne’s numbers and assumed that he was the predominant reason for his team’s success. What I determined, though, was that this team is much more well rounded than it was last year, and even without Rinne in net, they would likely still be an above average team. 

So how did they look in Rinne’s absence? Was the 4-2-2 record they posted a fluke? Or is this team a legitimate contender? 

Nashville’s game-by-game results since RInne’s injury:

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Nashville outshot their opponents in six of their eight games and had a better 5 on 5 Corsi For% in six of the games as well. This would be in line with their 5 on 5 Corsi numbers for the season, where they rank sixth in the league in CF% with 52.7. With that being said, the Predators were very obviously hurt not having their star goaltender in net. For example, in two of the games where they dominated shots and possession the most — against Detroit and Montreal — they ended up losing. With Rinne and his 0.931 save percentage and 18.87 goals saved above average in net, there’s a pretty good chance the Preds would have come out of this stretch with six or seven wins.

Regardless, Hutton and Mazanec held their own and did their duties adequately for the three weeks they were called upon. Unlike last year when Rinne was sidelined for most of the season, the Predators, as a team, were able to compensate for it. This year’s version of the Predators is much stronger than last year’s. For starters, Last season, the Predators were 23rd in the league in shots on goal per game with 29.0, and 11th in the league in shots against per game with 28.9, while this season, they’re fourth in the league with 31.2 shots for per game and ninth with 27.9 shots against per game. Another thing to note, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg are second and third respectively in the NHL in terms of GF%. When Wilson is on the ice, the Preds have 72.6% of the goals, and while Forsberg is on, they have 71.9%. 

With an MVP-calibre goaltender like Rinne in net, and the rest of the team dominating like they are, the Predators are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. 

Thanks to War on Ice and HockeyAnalysis.com for their statistics.