Predators’ Pekka is at peak performance

Monday, March 22, 2010 at 8:32pm
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Pekka Rinne has been sensational in March and the catalyst for Nashville's current win streak. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

His career is very much in its infancy but all indications are that Pekka peaks in March.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday after having earned the Third Star the previous week. That not only made him the first Nashville player to claim league recognition in the same week but the first ever to do so in any two weeks in the same month.

Rinne’s play has been critical to the team’s six-game win streak, which they take into Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena, Fox Sports-Tennessee).

“He’s been really sharp,” coach Barry Trotz said following Saturday’s 1-0 overtime victory over Columbus. “ … He’s doing a good job — he’s moving, his hands have been good, he’s been seeing the puck, and obviously playing very well for us. If he wasn’t playing well I don’t think we’d win a couple of these [recent] games.

“Goaltending obviously can make a big difference.”

 The weekly award was Rinne’s third of the season (he also was Second Star for the week ending Nov. 2) and the fourth of his career, which tied him with former Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun as the most decorated Predator ever in both regards.

He also was the NHL Rookie of the Month for February 2009.

“Personally, I’ve been feeling good during this stretch,” he said.

Rinne was 4-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average for the week, which included back-to-back shutouts and the second-longest streak in franchise history without allowing a goal (149:04).

He has eight wins in nine starts this month, which accounts for nearly one-third of his victories on the season (28). He has not allowed more than three goals in any of those starts.

His last loss was March 7 against Vancouver, when he was beat twice in the third period on less than dazzling shots and the Predators lost after having been in front 2-1 through two periods.

“After (that Vancouver game) — he didn’t play that well — he’s stepped up a lot,” Patric Hornqvist said.

Rinne’s career mark is now 58-29-8, which ties him with Chris Mason for third all-time in wins for Nashville. He wrapped up his award-winning week Sunday when he beat Mason and the St. Louis Blues 3-2.

Vokoun has 161 career wins and Mike Dunham has 81.

Rinne's performance this month has been even better than in March, 2009, when he went was 7-2-3.

In all, 15 of his wins have come in March, the heat of the playoff chase. His next best month, in terms of victories, is February. He has a total of 10 victories in that month.

“He’s really solid and when you’re getting goaltending like Pekka can give you, you’re in a good place,” Trotz said.

Briefly

• Martin Erat currently leads the team in scoring with 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists). With two more, he will become the first Nashville player ever to have 50 in four straight seasons.

He had 57 each in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and 50 last season.

J.P. Dumont, with 42 points (16, goals, 26 assists) is in position to do the same. He had 66 in 2006-07, 72 in 2007-08 and 65 last season.

Cliff Ronning came the closest of any Nashville player previously with 53, 62, 62 and 49 in the team’s first four seasons, respectively.

• Jason Arnott is expected to play against Dallas, his former team, after having missed Sunday’s game with after he hit his head Saturday against Columbus.

Arnott missed three weeks late last season with a concussion and then had eight points in four games after he returned.

• Joel Ward sustained an upper body injury Sunday at St. Louis and is expected to miss a week, which could be three to five games.

 

1 Comment on this post:

By: MusicCity615 on 3/23/10 at 12:44

Go Predators!!!