“I’m too old for this,” Pekka Rinne said with a smile, talking to reporters in a post-game Zoom press conference on Monday.

The Nashville Predators had just beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this season, the final 4-1 score highlighted by Rinne’s 38 save effort.

“No, I’m feeling good. Obviously this is what you want. Years earlier, I used to play a lot, there’s nothing new with that, but it is a factor when you are getting up in age. You have to really take care of yourself days between and things like that.”

While the Predators are almost guaranteed to be sellers at the trade deadline, and all but out of the playoff race this season, Pekka Rinne is going nowhere. He’s been arguably the most reliable player for the Preds this season, and though he’s not at his peak performance, he’s as important as anyone right now.

“It’s very impressive the way he goes about his business,” Hynes said after the win over Tampa. “With where he’s at in his age, as an older guy, he’s really carried the mail. The schedule has lended itself and has been good for us where you can play one goalie for multiple games. The schedule is set up for that. But then it becomes upon the player, where Pekka, the way he takes care of himself. The mental intensity you have to have every game to be the starting goalie is impressive.”

Rinne a source of stability this season

Pekka Rinne’s 2020-21 numbers are pedestrian when compared to his impressive, 15-year career. Only seven wins in 17 starts and a sub-.900 save percentage, a full 18 points below his career average of .917.

Still, amid the plethora of injuries to the Preds’ over the last few weeks, including a concussion to fellow netminder Juuse Saros, Rinne has been a constant that the Predators have needed.

“It is a challenging schedule,” Rinne added on Monday. “Right now when Juuse [Saros] has been out of the lineup, it’s been a different kind of work load. Personally, I love that. It’s been so much fun to play, but at the same time for Juuse’s sake, we all want him to be healthy and come back soon.”

Pekka Rinne has played six games in nine days for the Preds. He’s also played eight games in the month of March so far, and the Preds still have eight games left in the month. Looking back at his career, playing a lot in the month of March was common for Rinne, but that changed when Saros arrived in 2016.

Pekka Rinne’s game load in the month of March: 
  • 2020-21: 8 games*
  • 2019-20: 1 game (season paused on 3/12)
  • 2018-19: 8 games
  • 2017-18: 11 games
  • 2016-17: 10 games
  • 2015-16: 13 games
  • 2014-15: 13 games
  • 2013-14: 11 games
  • 2012-13: 14 games
  • 2011-12: 14 games
  • 2010-11: 14 games
  • 2009-10: 14 games
  • 2008-09: 12 games

Rinne could likely beat that record of 14 games this season, especially if Saros is out much longer. Hynes hinted that Saros could be back as early as this Thursday’s game against Florida. But with a goalie as reliable as Rinne, why rush it?

“Even the other night after the game, I came in here to do the media and Peks is one of the only guys riding the bike after the game against Tampa. And he comes in and has a quick practice yesterday. Prepares himself here for a 4 o’clock game and that’s what he is.”

Hynes: “He’s a special person to the organization.”

Hynes also mentioned how important it is to have a guy like Rinne around a team with so many rookies and young players.

“It’s so valuable to have him in and around our team, particularly where you have some young guys in the lineup. Here you have a guy that his jersey’s gonna be retired, he’s one of the all-time best Preds, he’s won a Vezina Trophy, he’s 39 years old, playing every night. It’s the way he goes about his business, the way that he practices, the way that he competes, whether we win or lose the game. He’s a special person to the organization, and what he’s even doing now, he’s gonna have a legacy with future Predators for sure.”

I think I speak for all Nashville Predators fans here: part of the “legacy” that Pekka Rinne leaves in Nashville should include a statue somewhere on Broadway downtown. If anyone is deserving of such an honor, it’s Pekka Rinne.

— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —