By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The NHL is moving ahead with plans to resume the season in August, and the Predators now not only know who their opponent is and when they’ll play, but also that all the opening games will be in the afternoon. They will face the Arizona Coyotes in Edmonton beginning Aug. 2. The games Aug. 2-5 are all slated for the afternoon. The Predators head for training camp July 26. But the biggest question regarding the team remains who will be the number one goalie once the playoffs begin?
When the season was suspended in mid-March, it looked as though Juuse Saros had finally supplanted Pekka Rinne. His overall season stats are better and he was riding a hot streak. However; coach John Hynes has made only very careful public statements, and in an interview with ESPN last week reiterated that he had still not made a final decision.
“It’s two-sided, in a sense,” Hynes told ESPN. “It’s a good problem to have as a coach, that you feel like you have a very difficult decision to make on who is going to be the starter in Game 1, because that means you feel like you have two really good guys that you believe in and that you think can help you win. That’s the positive side of it.”
“The tough part is that eventually we’re going to have to make a decision. We’re trying to make our camp as competitive as we can. We’re going to amp up some live game situations to create some [evaluation] situations that are better than practicing. But we’re going to have to really talk through it. It’s going to be a difficult decision. But on the other side of it, I think we’re going to need both goaltenders in this format. Both guys will be ready. Either way we go, we’re going to have a guy that gives us a real chance to win.”
“When you look at the amount of hockey you play in a five-game series — if it goes five games, that’s 10 days. I don’t have a straight answer either way, but you’re going to need two guys to win.”
Based on that, the suspense will likely continue right up until the opening face-off Aug. 2.