The Nashville Predators have been the hottest team in the NHL in the month of November. They sport an 8-2 record, an offense that has been averaging 3.6 goals per game and have some newfound success with an overtime win and two in the shootout.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne is certainly at the top of list of reasons why Nashville has been red hot. Rinne is 12-3-2 this season, including a 7-2 record in November. The 6-foot-5 Finn’s dominance was on full display Wednesday in the Preds 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“He was outstanding tonight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after Wednesday’s 3-2 SO win over Montreal. “Right from the start, you never know the game that is going to get dealt. There’s been a couple games where he’s been down there. We didn’t give up a shot. Maybe one shot from the outside the entire period – there’s just been nothing for him. Tonight, we gave him a 5-on-4 and then turned it into a 5-on-3 and (had) lots of opportunities right away.
Rinne saved 29 of the 31 shots he faced, including shutting down the Canadiens in the 3-on-3 overtime period – an area Nashville has struggled with, to say the least.
“He played great right at the beginning,” Laviolette said. “He had a huge save, back-door, on the 5-on-3. Really from that point (Rinne) gave us an opportunity to win and get under it once we killed those penalties – get ourselves a lead and try to build on that. Even through the course of the game, there were still some big saves he had to make, and he probably saved his best for last in the shootout.”
“I’ve won my last two shootouts,” Rinne added. “I’m happy with that, you know I can remember a lot of losses the last couple of years, too, so those are some big points and is a big aspect of the game and a big area that you can have your specialty guys, and as a goalie, for myself that’s an area where maybe I can change the game, so it was sure nice to stop those three; one crossbar though.”
The Preds have earned 16 of a possible 20 points this month, and sit just five points behind the central division-leading St. Louis Blues. Nashville travels to St. Louis on Friday, with another big two points on the line. The offense is in sync, Rinne playing some of his best hockey and the divisional showdown is coming at perhaps the best possible time for the Predators.
“He’s been great, but it also helps him when we score because it gives him a little more confidence knowing that he doesn’t have to have a shutout every game for us to win,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “That’s what we try to do. He has the potential to do that, but we don’t want to put that pressure on our goaltenders. We want to play solid hockey, get in on the forecheck and score some goals.”