There is a saying for people who always seem to fall short that goes, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” To a certain extent, that phrase applies to Pekka Rinne.
Rinne has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, the top award a goaltender can win at the NHL level, three times in his career. The Nashville Predators netminder has come away empty-handed on each occasion.
The 32-year-old first was in the running for the honor after the 2010-11 campaign, when he posted a 33-22-9 record with six shutouts and a 2.12 goals-against average. He finished third in the league in the latter category behind Tim Thomas’ 2.00 mark and Roberto Luongo’s 2.11.
In the case of the Vezina, Rinne also placed behind Thomas, who won the award for the second time in his career. The Finn came in second, earning six first-place votes to the Boston Bruins goalie’s 17 to finish 20 points back.
Enjoying the recognition as one of the NHL’s best netminders, Rinne registered a career-high 43 victories the following season to earn another chance at the trophy. Despite that accomplishment, he came in third in the voting with 42 points as Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers (120 points) took home the prize, with Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings (63) placing second.
Rinne did receive four first-place votes in 2012, but he was not part of the discussion for the Vezina over the next two years for different reasons. He performed below his normal standards during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, going 15-16-8 with a 2.43 GAA and .910 save percentage, then was limited to 24 games the following campaign due to a hip injury.
Nashville’s all-time leader in shutouts with 36, Rinne regained his stellar form this past season, registering a 41-17-6 record with four blankings and a 2.18 GAA. He helped keep the Predators in contention for the Central Division title for much of the campaign before the team ultimately was overtaken by the St. Louis Blues.
Rinne’s strong play once again put him in contention for the Vezina. And once again, he was a runner-up as overwhelming favorite Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens – who also claimed the Hart Trophy – captured the award.
An eighth-round pick in the 2004 draft, Rinne was second with 60 points to Price’s whopping 144. While no one expected the 6-foot-5 goalie to pull off the upset, Nashville general manager David Poile fully understands his importance to the franchise.
“Rinne is synonymous with us being successful,” Poile told the team’s website. “The last two years, with Rinne not being at 100 percent, we didn’t make the playoffs either time. This year, he comes back, he’s the ‘old Pekka’ if you will, and now our team not only (made) the playoffs but (was) one of the best teams in the NHL.”
Nashville’s strong season came to a disappointing end as it suffered a gut-wrenching loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in a first-round matchup worthy of the conference final. Rinne was not at his best in the series, allowing four goals on three occasions, but an injury to captain Shea Weber greatly diminished the Predators’ chances for victory.
Rinne also was the Predators’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy this year, although he was not selected as one of the finalists. But regardless of his lack of individual awards, Nashville realizes it would not be among the upper-echelon teams in the NHL if not for the stellar play of its goaltender.