NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The postseason offers the opportunity for a fresh start, and Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne couldn't be happier.
Rinne had what amounts to a challenging season for the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, who also earned his second All-Star game nod. He ranks ninth with 34 wins and posted a 2.48 goals-against average, a jump from the 2.18 GAA he posted just last season. He also allowed 161 goals with a .908 save percentage that ranked 37th among goalies.
"Even though I can't be personally totally happy with my season, it's a great accomplishment to make the playoffs," Rinne said. "It's not an easy league. It almost gives you like a second chance. It's a new season, and there's no regular season stats. It doesn't mean anything anymore. You just go out there and play and try to do the best job you can do, and that's what I'm going to try to do."
The goalie from Oulu, Finland, will start Game 1 of Nashville's first-round Western Conference series with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night as the Predators look to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2012. By the time the puck drops, Rinne will have had a week of rest between starts.
"He's been good on breaks that we've given him," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday.
Rinne's play was a key part of Nashville's franchise-record 14-game point streak where the Predators went 9-0-5 from the middle of February into March. He and backup Carter Hutton combined to post three shutouts and allowed two goals or less in nine of those games.
Rinne played a career-high 66 games this season and 3,896 minutes. He was pulled twice in three games, replaced after 11:40 in a loss to Colorado on March 28 that ended a 10-game point streak, and after 40 minutes in a loss at Pittsburgh on March 31. But he finished the season going 10-3-1 in net starting March 1.
"I feel like I had a pretty good end to the season," Rinne said. "And the last stretch of games I feel like as a team and myself improved my play and as a team we played better."
The Predators know exactly what they have in the 6-foot-5, 204-pound Finn.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau has to choose between John Gibson, who is expected to start this series, and Frederick Andersen. Gibson, 22, posted a .920 save percentage in his 40 games with a 2.07 goals-against average compared to Andersen who played 43 games with .919 save percentage and 2.30 GAA.
No matter who was in net, the Ducks gave up the fewest goals in the NHL with 188.
Rinne said his job is pretty simple and never changes.
"Try to stop the puck, and that's what I'm going to try to do," Rinne said.
This will be Nashville defenseman Barret Jackman's first playoff series with Rinne behind him protecting the goal. The veteran defenseman said Rinne is one of the NHL's top goalies with his size, mobility and ability to move the puck so well.
"When he's on his game, there's no better," Jackman said. "You've got to play tight defensively, but you know if there is a bad bounce or break behind you, he's going to be the guy that shuts that door."