It was one heck of a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings. It was very much like an old-time hockey game with little scoring, but many chances and a lot of physical play. When the dust settled, the Blackhawks and goalie Antti Raanta stood tall with a 1-0 win over the Kings. It was a victory long coming for both Raanta and the Blackhawks, especially after the heartbreaking 6-5 shootout loss against the St. Louis Blues.
For the Blackhawks, it was their first shutout of the season. For Raanta, it was the first shutout of his NHL career.
To say this win is important might be understating it. The Kings are the best defensive team in the league, but they have a few weapons on offense like Anze Kopitar that can test any goalie and defense. The fact that Raanta was able to stop every single shot is impressive enough. That he became the first rookie goaltender to stop a penalty shot in his first career shutout since 1982 is even more impressive.
Now that he’s finally got the shutout, Raanta will have a boatload of confidence, even though it’s expected that Corey Crawford will be back soon. Nikolai Khabibulin is not likely to come back, which means Raanta will be the Hawks’ backup goalie for the remainder of the season.
For the team, it means that the defense is finally finding a way to solidify itself. They had been struggling for some time even with good line combinations. But now that they’ve shut out the Kings, it can only get better for this beleaguered defense. Expect them to get more aggressive as the season goes on.
It only took until the last game of the calendar year for the Hawks to get their first shutout of the season, but it was a big one. Now the Hawks have enough confidence and energy to get better as the year goes on. For Raanta, he’ll gain more confidence and maybe — just maybe — cause some goalie controversy with Crawford. However, don’t expect that.