It might come as news to the NBC Sports Network studio crew that spent part of Wednesday night's post-game show panning Pekka Rinne's effort this season, but the Nashville Predators' goalie isn't the reason they're off to a 4-5-3 start.
Rinne's save percentage of .922 is 15th in the league, which isn't exactly Carey Price territory but sure beats February of last season, when he was 37th among 43 qualified goalies in save percentage. What's more, Rinne was in vintage form Tuesday night, kicking out 33 shots in a 3-1 win over Ottawa.
That included one of the season's best saves anywhere, his stop on Bobby Ryan's wrister six minutes into the game that appeared headed for the net's open half until Rinne kicked it out with his left pad.
"Between he and Carey, they've got to be among the best goaltenders in the league," said defenseman P.K. Subban, Price's teammate in Montreal until an offseason trade landed him in Nashville. "When he's on, he's on, and he's been on all season."
The Predators will ask Rinne to be on again Thursday night when they host the St. Louis Blues in game three of a four-game homestand. It's the first meeting between the Central Division rivals, who are both in chase mode behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
St. Louis is at a scheduling disadvantage in this one, as it played Wednesday night and fell 2-1 in overtime to Chicago in a game that reeked of a playoff classic instead of an early November contest. The Blues (7-4-3) scored with 2:11 left in regulation to force the extra period, but were denied the extra point 25 seconds into overtime on Artemi Panarin's wrister as a power play ended.
An inability to score has hampered St. Louis in its last eight games. It's 3-4-1 in that span, a record which one might consider flattering since it's tallied just 13 times.
"We've got to find ways to score," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "If we can keep getting to the net and causing more traffic, we're going to score more goals."
Pietrangelo took advantage of bodies in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford on the tying goal, as Jori Lehtera screened Crawford well enough for him to not get a bead on the shot. It caromed off Crawford and trickled into the net.
Otherwise, it was another night of flail to no avail for the Blues. Vladimir Tarasenko epitomized that, as he failed to elevate the puck on a Grade A chance near the end of a third-period power play and was robbed of a game-tying marker.
As for Nashville, it's also having trouble scoring goals, as it only has 31 in 12 games. But it did pot three Tuesday night against Ottawa's Craig Anderson, beating him with its first two shots of the second period.
"We had a lot of chances," defenseman Roman Josi said. "We played a really good game for three periods and got rewarded."
The Predators could see a familiar face in the other net. Former backup Carter Hutton might get the start in this one for St. Louis, as Jake Allen saved 28 shots in the loss to Chicago.