NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pekka Rinne fills up so much of the net at 6-foot-5, and the Nashville goaltender led the NHL with 43 wins while facing more shots than anyone else.
Jimmy Howard was on quite the run for Detroit himself, leading the league in wins and on pace to top Terry Sawchuk’s franchise record of 44 victories before breaking his index finger and then injuring his groin.
Nashville already has home-ice advantage in this first-round series starting tonight, and the Predators also feel they have the edge in net thanks to Rinne.
They will need Rinne at his best if they are to beat their Central Division foe for the first time in three postseason tries.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock thinks the goalie matchup is going to be real important in this series.
Our goaltender was outstanding for us for a long time and then hurt for a long time. It looks like he’s on his way back, Babcock said. He’s going to have to look at the guy across in net and outplay him.
That could be a challenge.
Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist a year ago, not only won more games than any other goalie this season but also faced more shots (2,153) and had more saves (1,987). Rinne also became the first goalie to lead the NHL in wins and assists (five) since Martin Brodeur did it twice in 1999-2000 and 2005-06.
I think Pekka’s one of the best goalies in the league, Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday. I’m totally confident in him.
Rinne had quite the workload this season, tying for most appearances with 73. His 43 wins set a franchise record.