NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
There was once a time when thoughts were that the emergence of Juuse Saros would spell an end to Pekka Rinne’s days in Nashville. The young Finn would take the torch from the elder Finn and continue backstopping the Predators to success.
Well, like a fine wine Rinne’s only improved with age, and last season’s Vezina Trophy winner isn’t slowing down at age 36.
No goaltender in the NHL this season with at least 20 starts has a better even strength save percentage (.943) or a allowed fewer 5-on-5 goals (28). It’s the continuance of a trend for Rinne that’s seen him improve as he gets later into his 30s. Last month, he signed a two-year, $10M extension on his birthday. Hours after the signing became official he went out and stopped all 26 shots he faced during a 1-0 shutout of the Boston Bruins.
“I don’t know how he does it. He’s getting older and you wouldn’t know it,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette recently. “It doesn’t seem to affect him.’
It’s quite a run when you consider that Rinne told Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt that when he signed his seven-year, $49M extension in 2011, he envisioned the 2018-19 season being his final one before retirement.
“I remember seeing guys who were 36 and thinking, ‘Okay, that’s pretty much the age I’m aiming for,'” he said. “And now that I’m there, I’ve been having so much fun. I feel much better than ever.”
As the Predators once again eye a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, they will be led by the winningest Finnish goalie in NHL history, who is also looking to become the first over-35 netminder in league history to win back-to-back Vezina Trophies. This season could have been his swan song. Instead, Rinne is showing that he has a number of good years left in him.
• Following Monday night’s loss to Ottawa, the Predators have now lost seven straight on the road (0-5-2) after starting the season 8-0-0 away from Bridgestone Arena. Tuesday’s meeting with the Blackhawks is at United Center.
• When they won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with 117 points, Nashville also had exactly 46 points through December 17 (21-7-4 record).
• Despite getting pulled last night after allowing three goals on 11 shots in the first period, Rinne has been largely stellar this season with a 14-5-1 record, .926 SV% and 2.07 GAA.
• Chicago was 6-6-3 when they fired Joel Quenneville, but are now 4-13-3 under Jeremy Colliton.
• When they do score the 1st goal of the game, Chicago is 8-2-4. When they allow the first goal of the game, they are 2-17-2.
• Chicago has just 12 power play goals all season, tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in the league. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine leads the league with 10 power play goals on his own.