Preds goaltending carousel continues despite win…

The good news? The Nashville Predators are 2-1-0 in their last three.

The bad news? They’re 2-6-1 in their last nine.

And they’re tied for the fewest goals scored in the league.

And they’re 13th in the 15 team Western Conference.

And….

Well… you get the idea.

The Preds notched two goals in the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. JP Dumont scored his third of the season and then Shea Weber netted a power play tally just 3:00 later to take the quick lead. But then, in what seemed to be deja vu from the Ottawa game, the Minnesota Wild came roaring back.

After allowing three goals in 1:47 of the 2nd period, starting goaltender Dan Ellis was pulled in favor of Pekka Rinne. Ellis pitched one period of shutout hockey (seven saves) but then gave up three goals on the first three shots he faced in the 2nd period, prompting his removal from the Nashville net. Rinne only faced a single shot during his part of the 2nd and then blanked the Wild in the 3rd, turning away 11 more.

This is not a trend that Nashville needs to continue: the goaltenders splitting game time. This is the third time in a mere 11 games that Nashville has elected to pull their starter, putting the Preds on pace to replace their starting goalie 22 times this season.

There are teams who don’t replace their starter 22 times in a decade.

Nashville is not a goal scoring team like Pittsburgh, Chicago or Washington so they cannot afford to have goaltending woes. Whether the reason for pulling their starter is based on poor performance or is an attempt to motivate the team, it can’t happen because they don’t have the offense to support it. They have two starting-caliber goalies and both of them need to start playing like it.

Just two years ago, Ellis unseated incumbent Chris Mason and posted a 23-10-4 record en route to leading Nashville to their 4th consecutive playoff appearance. He went on to post an elite-level .938 save-percentage against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings, giving them their strongest test on their road to the Finals.

Then, just last year, Rinne unseated Ellis as the starter and made a serious run at the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, putting together seven shutouts and five win streaks of three wins or more on the way to a 29-15-4 record.

Not bad for a rookie netminder backstopping one of the leagues most offensively inept clubs (207 goals, ranked 24th).

Coming into this season, Head Coach Barry Trotz said that neither goalie was the clear-choice number 1 and that both would fight for the right to be named the starter. This approach seems to have back-fired, however, as Rinne has lost confidence and Ellis has been forced to wonder if he will, in fact, be trade bait this season. Neither being a fresh state of mind for one of the most mentally and emotionally taxing positions in sports.

Just another reason why the coaching staff needs to be examined a little closer. Because, even while winning, this teams’ needs are glaringly obvious.

 

GAME NOTES:
* Dan Hamhuis, in his first game back from injury, was on the ice for two of the Minnesota goals but also fired three shots on goal and finished with an even rating. (Hamhuis has yet to finish a game with a positive plus/minus rating.)
* With Weber’s tally in the first period, the Preds have scored three power play goals in the past three games, improving to a 10.3% success rate (still last in the league).
* Recently recalled rookie Mike Santorelli scored his first NHL goal on Wednesday. The puck went off his toe and into the net.
* With the win, Rinne became the first Predators netminder this season to come off the bench and earn a victory.
* Steve Sullivan, who had been held off the scoresheet since October 8, collected two points Wednesday night, assisting on the first two Predators goals. He’s registered all four of his points in Nashville wins.
* Former Preds Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon combined for one assist and a minus-2 rating. Zanon was only credited with one blocked shot.
* Nashville is right back at it tonight. They skate at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.

2 Comments

  1. Dirk

    October 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    At this point, I can’t see that naming a single goalie as the #1 would help anything. Such a designation has to be earned, and neither has really made the case that they deserve it… yet.

    There are definitely questions to be asked of this coaching staff, however – the power play struggles and the disappearance of Martin Erat being the biggest two, in my mind.

  2. lethargic

    October 29, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    This is one area I don’t blame the coaching staff for. The reason they couldn’t name a starter is because Pekka absolutely stunk it up in the pre-season while Ellis was lights out. If Pekka hadn’t had the great finish to last season I don’t even think he beats out Dekanich based on their pre-seasons.

    And due to being a Olympic year, there are going to be so many back to back games, they’re kind of forced to have a 1A/1B situation anyway.