There isn’t another position in hockey, perhaps even all of sport, with more pressure to perform than that of a goaltender. And Rinne is never one to hide from the spotlight.
The Nashville Predators netminder addressed his play, as he and his teammates gathered for locker clean-out day after their Round Two, Game Seven defeat last week. While the final loss was disappointing, Rinne believes his season, and his team’s as a whole, was another step in the right direction.
“Personally, I’m happy with how the season ended for me,” Rinne said. “I thought that I played my best hockey in the playoffs, and I was able to raise my level of game, and the way I played. Going into this summer, I want to prepare myself, be better than ever before, come back strong, and be ready to go right away at the beginning of the season.
“I’m happy [with] how the season ended, even though you don’t want to be in this situation and be done with, but I’m pleased. I feel like as a team, we can be proud of how we ended the season.”
After inconsistencies though the month of January that spread throughout the team, Rinne won 14 of his final 20 appearances, helping to lead the Preds to their second consecutive postseason berth. Rinne, who has battled injuries in the past, was able to remain healthy throughout the season, but the Finn admitted he battled with himself at times before correcting things down the stretch to finish with 34 victories, the third-highest total of his career.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Rinne said. “I wanted to be better during the regular season. I always have high expectations for myself. I thought that it was hard to get consistency going on throughout the season. I feel like I had a lot of good games, but it would follow an average game. It was frustrating at times. My goal is to raise my level of game to where I need it to be, and where I want it to be.”
Rinne will have more chances than usual to hone his craft between the pipes this offseason, as he’s set to play for Finland in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey this September in Toronto. The hope from Rinne is the tournament will provide an extra avenue to work out the summertime rust before returning to Nashville.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a different summer, mentally and physically preparing for next season,” Rinne said. “You think about the World Cup, and you want to be at your best right away in September. So I think in that sense, it’s going to make a little bit of a different summer. But [playing in the World Cup] is something every player dreams about, and that was a big goal of mine. I’m really looking forward to that, and I think that’s going to help me personally, just to get ready for the actual season, too.”
It just ended, but Rinne also can’t help but think about what’s to come once the NHL regular season begins in October. A cornerstone of the Predators franchise, Rinne isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Continuing to grow and advance alongside his team always on the brain, Rinne has no qualms on the subject.
“I don’t think there are any windows closing for us,” Rinne said. “I feel like our team looks really good, and hopefully next season is the one. Right now, it’s always hard to think about that when you just lost Game Seven, you’re out of the playoffs and your season is done, but I feel really comfortable with this team.”