Antti Raanta Will Have a Trial By Fire for the Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Antti Raanta

Bruce Fedyck- USA TODAY Sports

Antti Raanta started the 2013-14 hockey season with the Rockford Icehogs, completely unaware of the season he was going to have. Now he’s being forced to become the starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks. It only took an injury to Nikolai Khabibulin and star goaltender Corey Crawford for Raanta to get the unexpected call to become the Blackhawks’ starting goalie. With Crawford out 2-3 weeks, Raanta will have his work cut out for him.

It’s been mentioned several times already that Raanta has credentials. He’s led his team to the SM-liiga championship while winning the league’s MVP. He’s 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA and a save percentage of .922. Certainly the stats speak for themselves and there’s little doubt he can perform in these circumstances. The question is how will he perform under the incredible pressure of being an NHL starting goaltender?

Raanta has displayed some quick reflexes and sharp skill but has made the occasional mistake, namely that second goal he gave up against the Florida Panthers. In Raanta’s defense, it was likely a rookie mistake made while trying to pass the puck to Duncan Keith. It’s more than certain that questions about Raanta’s experience will pop up every now and then.

Of course, the rest of the Blackhawks will have to soldier on without Crawford, as has been mentioned in two previous articles. The Hawks will likely look to solidify their defense to keep much of the pressure off of Raanta. It’s certain that the Blackhawks’ next opponents, the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and the ever-talented Los Angeles Kings will try to take advantage of Raanta’s inexperience in the NHL. The Stars have already faced Raanta and have already beaten him.

Still, to his credit, Raanta was not hesitant when asked if he was ready to take over for Crawford. “Of course. That’s the job I came here to do,” he told the media. You have to give a guy credit for having a gung-ho attitude.

That attitude might just be the final piece in the puzzle while Raanta holds on to Crawford’s position. He’s shown he can step up when called on; now let’s see if he can keep it up. Expect him to do just that.

Paul Chancey is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ChanceyPaul and add him to your network at Google+.

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