The Nashville Predator are feeling good about their chances as the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, especially with Pekka Rinne playing at the level he’s currently playing at.
Rinne (40-9-4) made 35 saves for his NHL-leading eighth shutout of the season, an NHL career high, as the Predators blanked the Buffalo Sabres.
With the shutout Rinne became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to have at least three seasons with 40 or more wins, joining his idol Miikka Kiprusoff, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Evgeni Nabokov, Braden Holtby and Martin Brodeur.
“It’s so hard to believe,” Rinne said (h/t NHL.com).
“I mean, growing up in Finland, he [Kiprusoff] was the goalie we all looked up to. It’s an honor to be mentioned with him.”
“I grew up idolizing him and watching him play,” Rinne said. “I had a chance to meet him and play against him a few times. I can’t say I know him very well, though.
“It’s unreal to be in the same ballpark as him. In my books, he’s a legend. He’s the first Finnish goalie that really took it to another level and established himself as a No. 1 goalie for a lot of years. He’s obviously someone I really look up to. It’s great.”
The accomplishment seems to mean a lot to Rinne, even though he wasn’t aware of it until well after the game was over.
“I didn’t know that,” Rinne said when he learned about his historic accomplishment. “When you say that, it sounds pretty cool.
“[Brodeur, Plante and Sawchuk] are legends of this game. They’ve done so much not only for the game of hockey, but for the position of being a goalie.”
“You want great? He’s been great,” Predators defenseman P.K Subban said. “In my mind, he’s been great all year. There is no question he should win it.
“That’s not to take anything away from the other goaltenders around the League who have been great all year. But in this instance, there is no question.”
Subban has seen greatness up-close as he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens when Carey Price won the Vezina Trophy in 2015.
“There are a ton of similarities between [Rinne] and [Price],” Subban said. “I think they’re both big guys. They’re both really good at handling the puck.
“I do remember a few years back when [Price] won the Vezina, [Rinne] had an amazing start to the season. He had a bunch of shutouts early on and then injured his knee. [Price] is a great goaltender and deserved to win it, but [Rinne] was in that conversation until the injury.
“As for this year, I’m not surprised by it. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with two elite ones in [Price] and [Rinne].”
“He’s unbelievable,” Predators forward Ryan Johansen said.
“In our opinion, he’s been the most valuable player for us and definitely will be recognized, I’m sure, come the award time in Vegas this year for more than one.
“It’s been a lot of fun playing in front of him and watching him and the way he competes every night.”
“We need to keep it going,” Rinne said. “All that matters for us right now is wins.”