The San Jose Sharks are in a bit of a groove. They’ve won six of their last nine games, and were dominant against one of the league’s best offensive teams on Monday night.
The last person they want to line up against on Wednesday night, then, is Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
The Predators have started slowly, but through no fault of Rinne, the only person with more ownership of the Sharks than Hasso Plattner. In 22 starts against San Jose, Rinne’s 11-6-4 with a .942 save percentage and 1.87 goals against average.
His save percentage is the highest against any opponent, and his goals against average is second-lowest. The Finnish netminder has been the Sharks’ Kryptonite, and SAP Center is his Fortress of Solitude.
He’s posted a .944 save percentage, and is averaging only 1.76 goals against. In seven of his 12 appearances in San Jose, Rinne’s stopped at least 30 shots. He’s also picked up four shutouts at the tank.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, Rinne’s been one of the best goalies this season by just about every metric. He’s second in goals against average (1.86), fourth in save percentage (.940) among qualifying goaltenders, and his .952 five-on-five save percentage ranks first out of the 34 goalies that have played 200 minutes this season.
That’s bad news for a team that hasn’t scored all that much. San Jose’s emerged as one of the league’s best possession teams early in the season, and are playing the kind of hockey that should, eventually, translate to more goals.
The Sharks have scored three goals in each of their last two games, which is encouraging, if a bit misleading. Two of San Jose’s three even strength goals in Buffalo on Saturday came moments after a special teams situation ended, and the Sharks scored just one five-on-five goal on Monday against Toronto.
San Jose’s playing well enough where the goals should eventually follow. They’ve been one of the league’s best puck possession teams so far, and only six teams have generated even strength scoring chances at a higher rate, according to Natural Stat Trick.
It’s reasonable to assume the Sharks are due for improved results at some point. But given Rinne’s early-season form, and his career dominance against the Sharks, don’t bet on an offensive breakout on Wednesday night.