When the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks got together Thursday night, the result was just as everyone predicted: 11 total goals were scored in the Predators’ 7-4 loss.
After relying so heavily on the defensive hockey that has carried them this season — and especially in the last few weeks — it was Pekka Rinne that inexplicably let Nashville down.
While not in direct competition with Vancouver for a playoff spot at the moment, the Predators are chasing almost everyone else in the conference where only two points separate 5 through 10. Every game from here on out will be tabbed a “must win”, and Thursday night’s tilt was no different. Despite getting long-overdue goals from players like Mike Fisher and Matt Halischuk, Pekka Rinne couldn’t make it out of the 2nd period.
A rare off night for the likely Vezina finalist is nothing to be worried about, but if it becomes a trend, Nashville could be in serious trouble. It’s Rinne’s 5th four-goal affair in his last nine, getting chased in three of those games. Combine that with the consistent lack of scoring from the team this season, and that could be a recipe for a losing season.
Though not terribly in danger of getting overworked, Rinne does rank second in the NHL in minutes played behind Ilya Bryzgalov. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust in backup goaltender Chris Mason, who hasn’t gotten a start since February 18th. He allowed six goals in that game on 18 shots. With only a single win to his credit, his play has been less than desirable this year.
The Predators are in a tough spot. Pekka Rinne certainly gives the team the best chance to win, but it has to be asked: if he’s not the Pekka Rinne that he’s capable of being, are they icing their best team? In a shortened season where every point matters, having a backup you can count on is just as important as having a solid starter. If Chris Mason isn’t that guy, who is?
With Nashville’s continued reluctance to look nowhere but the waiver wire to fix their most glaring problem, scoring, it has to be assumed that this issue won’t be addressed, but it will be something to keep an eye on going forward.