It’s become clear that if the Nashville Predators are without Juuse Saros for their entire first round series against the Colorado Avalanche, they have little to no chance of moving on in the playoffs.
We saw first hand Tuesday night just how poor the alternatives are for the Preds in net. David Rittich, signed to be Saros’s backup this year, allowed five goals in only 15 minutes of action in Game 1. He looked fairly incapable of stopping anything in net, though to be fair, the Preds’ defense didn’t help him out much.
Connor Ingram played the rest of the game. While he looked better in net, it’s hard to say how much the Avalanche were really attacking after building up a 5-0 lead in the 1st period. Ingram saved 30 of 32 shots and will start Game 2 tonight.
Connor Ingram had the most saves (30) in a relief performance for the #Preds in a playoff game. Faced the challenge well and looked confident, despite the team in front of him looking like amateurs.— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) May 4, 2022
Literally the only takeaway from last night.
Neither Ingram nor Rittich are adequate replacements for Saros. Prior to the injury, Saros was among the top Vezina Trophy candidates in the NHL. He finished 2nd in the league in wins (38), 8th in save percentage (.918), and 6th in shutouts (4).
Juuse Saros injury details are not great
There is little we know about the severity of Saros’ high ankle sprain. But the folks at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee gave us a good run down of what to expect in terms of a timeline.
Dr. Ronald Derr, when explaining the nature of a high ankle sprain, including how difficult they can be for goaltenders to come back from, explained that a four to six week return timeline might be optimistic.
“In general, high ankle sprains take about twice as long to heal as a low ankle sprain,” Dr. Derr said. “Unfortunately, sometimes high ankle sprains, it would be fortunate for it to be four to six weeks, sometimes it can be twice that long. Sometimes it can be several months. In the heat of a battle like you are right now, time is of the essence, and that’s a really difficult injury to come back from in a short period of time.”
He later explained why it’s so difficult for goalies specifically to return from this kind of injury.
“In hockey, you don’t see a lot of low ankle sprains because your skate actually kind of protects you from that. But the skate kind of locks your ankle in, so any twisting movement from your knee down can often kind of create that separation between those two bones. So in hockey, especially a goalie who has to move quickly from side to side, pushing off hard, exploding from one side to the other, rotating a lot, it’s just a really difficult situation.”
Also, this injury might not be a question of just pain management. Hockey players are known for rushing themselves back to the ice after injury, but a high ankle sprain for a goalie is a different animal.
“This is not something you can play through if it’s too painful,” Dr. Derr said. “It’s going to limit you too much. It’s going to slow down your reflexes. It’s going to make you more vulnerable, in his position, to not be at his usual level of participation.”
Juuse Saros overworked?
After mentioning that the injury doesn’t require surgery, only time to heal, he also addressed the elephant in the room: is this injury to Saros a result of his being overworked in goal?
“I think this is more bad luck than it was being overworked. I think the injury wasn’t brought on by him playing too much. It was just unfortunate position where he got his foot caught up and that’s where goalies typically get hurt, they fall back over their ankle, their ankle is locked into their skate or caught in something else, a post like he did. Unfortunately, it’s just bad luck. I don’t think the over playing had anything to do with it.”
Many have pointed to John Hynes’ over reliance on Saros this year as a possible reason for this injury. Saros started 67 games this season. He had never started more than 35 games before and Pekka Rinne, longtime workhorse for the Preds, had only started more than 67 games once in his career.
So how long will Saros be out? If the usual four to six weeks timeline is being optimistic, and it could be “months” before he returns, Preds’ fans might want to give up hope on seeing Saros again.
“Unfortunately, in his situation, that’s such a demanding position to play, that I think the staff up there are going to have to decide on a day by day, week by week basis where he is in the lineup. “
John Hynes gives goalie update
After Thursday’s morning skate, John Hynes was asked if there was a possibility Saros could play when the series returned to Nashville.
“There’s a possibility, that’s still a work in progress. I wouldn’t rule it out at this point,” Hynes responded.
Given what we know about the nature of the injury, Hynes’ response seems exceedingly optimistic.
Earlier in the press conference, Hynes announced that Connor Ingram would start Game 2, having already ruled Saros out for Games 1 and 2 of the series.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —