The playoffs have begun and the Predators find themselves on the outside looking in, a position to which they have grown unaccustomed.
As we look back over the season, we can point our finger at several developments that resulted in the team missing the post season. Injuries certainly took their toll. The hockey gods did not smile favorably on the team.
And of course, there are the players themselves.
We are going to grade the Predators and look at their performance in the recently completed season.
The Predators have consistently said they built the team from the net out, so let's start with the goalies.
Pekka Rinne 15-16-8 2.43 GAA .910 Save %
Pekka was once again the workhorse for the Predators, starting 42 games. Peks recorded 5 shut outs and kept most games close for a team that struggled to score goals. Considering that the Predators tied for dead last in the NHL in goal scoring, this was no mean feat. Yet Rinne at times looked average, and it was revealed after the season that he had played the full year with an undisclosed injury. That may explain the middle of the road season.
Rinne lead the NHL with shutouts with 5; his 15 wins were good for 19th in the League, but his 16 losses were the 5th worst. His goals against average was not up to his usual standard, good for 25th in the League, and his save % was good for 18th. With an offensively challenged team, those numbers were not good enough to get the team to the post season.
Rinne lost his mojo in shoot outs, which was a complete reversal from last season. Again, the extent of his injury is unknown, but one has to believe it came into play in the skills competition. Rinne's save % in shoot outs slumped to .556 compared to last season's .794.
The Predators have relied on Rinne to keep them close in games and give them a chance to win. Although his effort cannot be faulted, the fact that he was more pedestrian meant the Predators would have their struggles.
Rinne's leadership and competitiveness are unparalleled, and I expect him to rebound in the coming season. The issue of his health affected his play this season and his final grade.
Final Grade: B
Chris Mason 1-7-1 3.73 GAA .873 Save %
Mace showed flashes of brilliance, making great saves and playing exceptionally well in the last game of the season against Columbus. Too often, though, his play was spotty and he failed to come up with timely saves. Part of this may have been the fact that he went long stretches without playing and could not get used to the speed of the game. Perhaps the bigger question for the coaching staff is have Mason's skills diminished to the point that he cannot serve in the back up role.
The Predators needed to have Mason contribute some quality starts, but as his record shows, he could not backstop the team to wins. One has to wonder if the coaching staff lost confidence in Mason.
Mason is good in the locker room and a quality teammate. The question that the team must address in the off season is if Mason can be a quality back up or if it is time to bring up a netminder from Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see what decision is made.
Final Grade: D
In the next installment, we will look at the defense.