As far as a No. 2 netminder is concerned, the Chicago Blackhawks have been facing an uphill battle. First off, they struggled through the muddled mess that was veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Then, as if having an outdated goalie weren’t enough, Khabibulin got injured.
As a result of Khabibulin’s lack of netminding skills, Corey Crawford, Chicago’s No. 1 keeper, has faced a prolonged amount of time out on the ice. That’s not saying that this hasn’t paid off for Crawford’s career because he currently leads the league with 16 wins, and if anything that $6 million contract probably helps dull any pain he may have had to endure.
However, Khabibulin’s absence due to injury has necessitated the action of the Blackhawks organization. After all, the team cannot be without a backup goalie. Any sane person will attest to the fact that a washed up goalie is better than no goalie at all.
As the sports world is already aware, the Blackhawks answered the call to action by calling up Antti Raanta from the AHL Rockford Icehogs. He already has a decent amount of buzz around his game as he has been very successful in the AHL and in leagues previous.
Raanta hasn’t been sporting the Blackhawks jersey for long, but Coach Joel Quenneville promised that we would see him out on the ice during the seven-game circus trip. Well, that promise will finally be fulfilled Wednesday night as the Blackhawks take on the Calgary Flames.
It is important for Raanta to finally get his time out on the ice, after making his debut in relief of Crawford in the 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche a week ago.
Quenneville has high hopes for the young goalie and is anxious to see him out in the net. He commented saying, “ For sure it’s his turn. We’re excited about him getting into the net. It’ll be a good challenge for him, a good test.”
Quenneville’s comments couldn’t be closer to the truth. Raanta will be put to the test as he is exposed to more NHL ice time, but it is a necessary evil. Raanta must gain more experience and become more acclimated to gameplay.
With experience Raanta can and will excel in the NHL. Like most players, it takes time to find your stride out on the ice. In the meantime, the defense will need to be mindful of Raanta and he them. Most importantly the Hawks will need to do what they do best: work as a team.