Nashville Predators: How Far Can They Go with Pekka Rinne in Net?

Chad MintonCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators warms up prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 8, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Pekka Rinne has made the Nashville Predators one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winning 14 of their last 17.

This recent surge has put the Predators just four points behind the Central-leading and NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings.

Rinne has been remarkable this entire season, but he's stepped up his game even more since the all-star break.

Just once has Rinne allowed more than two goals in a game since January 5th in a loss to the Dallas Stars.

What Rinne has done has made the Predators capable of beating anyone in a seven-game series. 

Some may argue that the Predators' offense will still keep them from hanging with the best of the NHL, but the Predators are actually in the top half of the league in goals per game.

Young guys like Craig Smith, Matt Halischuck and Colin Wilson have really helped this offense give Rinne a little goal support.

With Rinne finally getting some backup, the sky is the limit as to how far he can carry them this season.

This is a big reason why head coach Barry Trotz has inserted backup goaltender Anders Lindback when the Predators are facing off against an Eastern Conference opponent. 

These games aren't nearly as important as their Western Conference games, so Trotz is trading a loss here and there to assure Rinne is fresh for the important games down the stretch.

The Predators have been a staple of the playoffs for quite some time now, but they've never really had a lockdown goaltender like Rinne.

Tomas Vokoun did have a few solid years, but he never played as consistently or reliable as Rinne is playing right now.

Now Rinne may not be exactly where you would like to see him among the other NHL goaltenders in terms of goals against average.

Even though that number continues to get lower, the most important statistic is the amount of wins Rinne has goaltended. He's been a flat-out workhorse this season, and that's what you want to see from a guy that just got a $49 million deal back in November.

The schedule gets extremely difficult to close out the season, but Rinne in net will keep the Predators in the playoff picture yet again.

This is realistically the best chance the Predators have ever had at making a run to the Stanley Cup thanks to their lockdown goaltender who keeps making critical save after critical save.