The (Not-So) Secret to the Predators’ Success

USATSI_8275745_154158418_lowresThe Nashville Predators continue to be one of those teams to quietly amass wins, with a 20-8-2 record going into Saturday’s action. They’re third in the Western Conference with a 12-2-1 record at home and just 59 goals against. Let that sink in: 59 goals against. The next closest team in that category is Pittsburgh with 71 goals against.

The biggest reason for Nashville’s not-so-surprising success is goalie Pekka Rinne, who has a league-leading 20 wins in 27 games played and a second overall 1.76 goals against average. He also boasts a .937 save percentage, also second overall, and has three shutouts. Only Cory Schneider and Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen have played more games than Rinne.

Only Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson has a higher save percentage (.940), but he’s only played a dozen games.

But Rinne has to be at the top of any reasonable Vezina conversation and his stellar play in goal has kept the Predators in the hunt.

He’s yet to lose two games in a row this season and has only allowed more than three goals twice, once when the Flames popped in four goals and once when the Blues did the same. Rinne has always bounced back. He has posted a .950 save percentage in 10 games and has eight games of just allowing one goal against.

Rinne, like most of the Predators, has been traditionally slept on by fantasy owners but reality tells a different story. He’s almost always found himself in the hunt for the Vezina and is among the league’s most consistently reliable netminders.

By almost any metric, Rinne is at the top of the pack. Even moving behind all-important wins, which is a team effort, he looks sharp.

Consider the “quality start” metric, developed by the advanced statistics crowd. A quality start is when a goalie attains the “mean save percentage” of a season in a single game, with some flexibility allowed for low shooting games. An example: the mean save percentage of the 2013-2014 season was .915. If a goalie lets in just two goals on 28 shots, it’s a .929 save percentage and that’s a quality start.

Back to Rinne, we find that he’s right at the top of the pack in terms of quality starts. Corey Crawford, Jaroslav Halak, Braden Holtby, and Jonathan Quick are all in the running as well, but Rinne is way ahead of the line.

In other words, Rinne always gives his club a chance to win no matter how many goals the Predators score. This is apparent not only by looking at the quality start metric but by going back to the scary fact, listed at the beginning of this article, that the Predators have only allowed 59 goals. Let that sink in. Maybe it’s time to start paying attention, real attention, to Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators.


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