Chicago Blackhawks Midseason Performance Review: Michal Rozsival and Antti Raanta
It has been a rather disappointing campaign thus far for Chicago Blackhawks‘ Michal Rozsival, as he has split games with the underwhelming Sheldon Brookbank and Michael Kostka. While this is by all accounts due to Joel Quenneville wishing to conserve Rozsival’s energy and health for the postseason, he has underperformed even in the games he has been in the lineup.
As is typical for a team’s sixth defenseman, Rozsival faces easy competition and begins a large portion of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite these advantages, he simply hasn’t been very good; he turns the puck over at an extremely high rate and has been caught out of position repeatedly all season long.
Final Verdict: D
He is clearly the best of the rotating door that has been Chicago’s sixth defenseman in 2013-14, but that isn’t saying much.
We strike a bit more of a positive note as we turn the discussion to Antti Raanta. Signed out of the Finnish SM-liiga, he was a relative unknown to most Blackhawks fans. Raanta began the year with the Rockford Icehogs, as Chicago’s GM Stan Bowman had signed one-year stop gap Nikolai Khabibulin to back up starter Corey Crawford.
When Khabibulin suffered his annual lower-body injury, Raanta got his chance to at least sit on an NHL bench. A subsequent injury to Crawford handed Raanta the keys to the city.
After essentially monopolizing Chicago’s goal crease in December, Raanta handed the reigns back to Crawford when the latter returned to the lineup. Raanta had turned what could have been a disastrous end to 2013 into an extremely strong month for the Blackhawks, compiling an 8-1-3 record while playing one of the league’s toughest schedules.
Final Verdict: B-
Raanta’s mediocre save percentage and goals against average belie what has really been a more-than-acceptable season. He has permanently taken over the Blackhawks’ backup job.