Pekka Rinne's sixth shutout of the season last night in a 4-0 win over Minnesota, continued to bolster his case for NHL post season hardware.
Tim Thomas has been the odds on favorite since October for the Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie) but Rinne has been on a season long mission to close the gap in the critical save percentage and goals against statistical categories.
After last night's contest, Rinne cut the gap in GAA to .07 with Thomas at 2.01 and Pekka at 2.08. In the GAA category, Thomas now leads .939 to .930. Traditionally, .930 has been the measuring stick for an outstanding season as few netminders attain that number.
I believe that Thomas will win the Vezina, barring a complete collapse. Carey Price and Roberto Luongo will be Rinne's strongest competition for the final three to attend the 2011 NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.
Personally, I think that if the awards are truly viewed in the proper perspective that Rinne should be in the final three for the Hart Trophy that is "given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team."
The Hart nomination would obviously be contingent on the Predators making the playoffs but if Rinne plays the final 15 games as is expected and he continues at his current pace, few could argue that anyone is more valuable to their team than Rinne is to the Predators.
Last night's game was a rarity in that it wasn't a one goal game with the weight of the world on Rinne's shoulders. Rinne said, "It was a little different than we usually play, all those one goal games when it is so tight."
Barry Trotz explained the Pressure Rinne has been under all season, "From a goalie's standpoint, mentally it can wear on you. You're in those one 1-0 games, 1-1 games, 2-2 games and one mistake can cost you the game. Today he had a little breathing room which was nice for him."
Pekka Rinne has carried the Nashville Predators all season so it was nice for the team to give him a little breathing room, for a change, and allow him to relax a bit and win a game that didn't go down to the closing second.
Predators- Wild Wrap-Up...
Here is our game story with post game video from last night.
Josh Cooper had his game story, notes column, and postgame ponderings.
Jim Diamond focuses on Wild killer Nick Spaling.
David Boclair has his story at The City Paper where the Preds got cooking early.
From the blog world reports come from Amanda DiPaolo, Mark Willoughby, Dirk Hoag (with his advances stats), Jeremy Gover, and Hockey Night in Nashville.
Sad news for Wild fans comes from the Minnesota Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, View From the Lighthouse, and Hockey Wilderness.
Audio clips from the Preds include Jerred Smithson, Pekka Rinne, and Nick Spalling. From Minnesota Kyle Brodaik, Nick Shultz, and coach Todd Richards speak.
Here is a video of Pekka Rinne from his seat in the dressing room.
In Pred Nation...
Pekka RInne will be on NHL Live today at 12:45.
Josh Cooper has an update on Francis Bouillon and it doesn't sound like he'll pay again this season.
Jeremy Gover has a detailed look at how young the Predator Defense is with the Teemu Laakso recall.
Patten Fuqua has an ax to grind with Craig Leipold.
Chris Burton looks at Shea Weber's Norris Trophy credentials.
Robby at Hockey Night in Nashville looks at puck movement as the key to the Predators success.
Aaron Sims is hoping to have three of the top ten OHL scorers playing in Milwaukee before the year is over.
The Predators March STH specials have been updated.
Cumulus Media took over Citadel Broadcasting yesterday which put's longtime sports host George Plaster in an odd position of working for his former employer who he sued in the past. J.R. Lind found this account.
Around the NHL...
News leaked out last night that Gary Bettman received a five year contract extension in November in a unanimous vote from the Board of Governors that will pay him $7.2 million a year.
As if the controversy around the Chara-Pacioretty hit couldn't get any stranger, now the police may investigate.
Elliotte Friedman takes a closer look at Air Canada's threat to the NHL over pulling sponsorship if the league doesn't satisfy their request to take a tougher stance on head shots. Here is the text of the letter from Air Canada.
Gary Bettman commented on the Air Canada letter by basically telling them to go elsewhere if they wish and that the NHL could fly other airlines. Yeah! Now we have a good pissing match.
Later in the day, Geoff Molson gets on the calling out Gary Bettman bandwagon in a letter to fans.
Not to be left out, Donald Fehr released a statement on player safety.
With the fire-storm still going over the no suspension for Chara, the league suspended Pavel Kubina for three games for this hit (video).
In light of all the uproar in Montreal, Puck Report recalls the Montreal riots in 1955 when The Rocket was suspended. What would he get in today's NHL?
Adrian Dater takes a look at the Flames' revival since Jay Feaster showed up mid-season.
Carolyn Christians pronounces that Ovechkin is back at the Red Light District.
Steve Lapore has the NBC schedule for the first weekend of playoff games.
Odds and Ends...
Homeless sensation Ted Williams who fell as fast as his rise is seeking a second 15 minutes of fame by playing the Jesus card (video).
Kelly Slater opened his "Aloha Tour 2011" with an impressive win over Taj Burrows in Australia in the seasons first event.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass