It’s been a while since we’ve talked about Antti Raanta. The Chicago Blackhawks‘ Finnish goalie was named the Rookie of the Month for the month of December and now he’s getting his first start since January. Raanta will get the call against the Colorado Avalanche, who have been a thorn in the Blackhawks’ side, especially Corey Crawford, all season. Head coach Joel Quenneville decided a change was in order, and since Raanta was in net during the Hawks’ only win this season against Colorado, the answer was obvious.
Obviously the big question is, “Is Raanta rusty?” Since he hasn’t played much since late January, this is a fair question. Heck, the last time Raanta played, he didn’t do so well. It was a far cry from December where he stepped in for the injured Crawford and did a heck of a job. But the lack of wins in the Central Division has caused Quenneville some headaches. The Avs being one point behind the Hawks in the “New Norris” (as I now call it) Division standings make this game all the more important.
Raanta’s credentials are not in question. He’s proven himself time and time again. But the Hawks have not been playing as well as they should be as of late. If they let him down, he should not get the blame for the loss. The Hawks are without Marian Hossa and a second-line center (their hopes for a second-line center rest upon how well the club team of a certain Finnish prospect does). But the last two games, where they demolished the Columbus Blue Jackets and survived a struggling, but still-tough Buffalo Sabres team, could give them the momentum they need.
It’s been far too long without seeing Antti Raanta in net. Knowing what he can do, there should be good reason to expect the Hawks to pull off a much-needed win. There are genuine concerns about rust and the team itself, but Raanta is more than capable of handling the pressure of the situation.