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Predators rave about Rinne, believe he'll win Vezina Trophy

Teammates gush over goalie following 40th win, eighth shutout

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- It's a surreal feeling for Pekka Rinne, being in the record book alongside his idol, Miikka Kiprusoff.

The feeling will remain for the Nashville Predators goalie for a long time too.

"It's so hard to believe," Rinne said, shaking his head in disbelief after a 4-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Monday. "I mean, growing up in Finland, he was the goalie we all looked up to. It's an honor to be mentioned with him."

 

[RELATED: Predators shut out Sabres to extend point streak to 15]

 

Rinne (40-9-4) made 35 saves for his NHL-leading eighth shutout of the season, an NHL career high. In the process, he became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to have at least three seasons with 40 or more wins, joining Kiprusoff, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Evgeni Nabokov, Braden Holtby (three each) and Martin Brodeur (seven).

"I didn't know that," Rinne said when informed of his feat. "When you say that, it sounds pretty cool.

"[Brodeur, Plante and Sawchuk] are legends of this game. They've done so much not only for the game of hockey, but for the position of being a goalie."

Video: Rinne earns Monday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout

So too has Kiprusoff, at least when it comes to setting the bar for the next generation of Finnish goalies.

During his 12-season NHL career that began with the San Jose Sharks in 2001, Kiprusoff went 319-213-31 with 44 shutouts. Traded to the Calgary Flames in 2003, Kiprusoff was part of their run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final that ended with a Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I grew up idolizing him and watching him play," Rinne said. "I had a chance to meet him and play against him a few times. I can't say I know him very well, though.

"It's unreal to be in the same ballpark as him. In my books, he's a legend. He's the first Finnish goalie that really took it to another level and established himself as a No. 1 goalie for a lot of years. He's obviously someone I really look up to. It's great."

Video: NSH@BUF: Rinne shuts out Sabres to earn 40th win

After the win Monday, Predators defenseman P.K. Subban became Rinne's unofficial spokesperson for his Vezina Trophy campaign as the League's top goalie.

"You want great? He's been great," Subban said. "In my mind, he's been great all year. There is no question he should win it.

"That's not to take anything away from the other goaltenders around the League who have been great all year. But in this instance, there is no question."

Subban knows all about Vezina Trophy winners; he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens when Carey Price won the award in 2015.

"There are a ton of similarities between [Rinne] and [Price]," Subban said. "I think they're both big guys. They're both really good at handling the puck.

"I do remember a few years back when [Price] won the Vezina, [Rinne] had an amazing start to the season. He had a bunch of shutouts early on and then injured his knee. [Price] is a great goaltender and deserved to win it, but [Rinne] was in that conversation until the injury.

"As for this year, I'm not surprised by it. I've been fortunate enough to play with two elite ones in [Price] and [Rinne]."

Tweet from @NHL: Three 40-win seasons in @PredsNHL history.All by this man right here, Pekka Rinne. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/rKVufQx8mw

Subban has company on the Rinne-for-Vezina bandwagon.

"He's unbelievable," Predators forward Ryan Johansen said of Rinne, who is second in the NHL with a .934 save percentage and third in goals-against average (2.21). "In our opinion, he's been the most valuable player for us and definitely will be recognized, I'm sure, come the award time in Vegas this year for more than one.

"It's been a lot of fun playing in front of him and watching him and the way he competes every night."

The victory extended the Predators' record point streak to 15 games (14-0-1) and was their record ninth consecutive road win. They have a 10-point lead on the second-place Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division and have already clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We need to keep it going," Rinne said. "All that matters for us right now is wins."

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