On Thursday night, the Blackhawks squared off against the Tampa Bay Lighting. Corey Crawford would get the night off in net. Nikolai Khabibulin would get his second start of the season. Khabibulin gave up a season high six goals on 25 shots. Khabibulin would be the first to admit that Thursday was not a good performance on his part.
With Khabibulin struggling people are beginning to wonder if the Blackhawks have other backup options. The one goalie that people immediately think of is Antti Rannta. Raanta was believed to be one of the top international goalies available. Rannta was signed by the Blackhawks this offseason on a one year contract. Raanta has played the majority of his hockey career over in Finland. Raanta spent his last two seasons in the Liiga Finnish league on Assat. He played in 45 games with 1.85 goals against and a save percentage of 94.3%. Raanta really put his name on the NHL radar with his performance in the World Championships in 2012-13. Raanta in seven games had 2.09 goals against and a save percentage of 92.8%.
Scouts have thought that Raanta needs to adapt to the NHL style of play. In Rockford this season, Raanta is 3-1 with 2.88 goals allowed with save percentage 90.3%. He has started 5 games this season. If Khabibulin continues to struggle would the Blackhawks call up Raanta to be the backup?
Raanta is the sexy choice to replace Khabibulin if he continues to struggle but what about Kent Simpson? That is right Kent Simpson. Simpson played in the WHL from 2007-08 to 2010-11. Simpson played in the ECHL last season with the Toledo Walleye. Simpson’s stat line last season in the ECHL was 41 games played, 21-4-5, with 2.36 goals allowed and a save percentage of 91.2%. Simpson like Raanta is very young and does not have any NHL experience. In Rockford this season, Simpson is 2-2 with a 3.33 goals against and a save percentage of 91.5%. Do not forget Coach Quenneville praised Simpson play during training camp this season.
Antti Raanta is the popular choice for the Blackhawks to turn too if Khabibulin continues to struggle, but Kent Simpson might be the smarter one. Simpson does not need to adapt to the North American style of play. He also does not have the pressure of being a Finnish start goalie. Let’s hope for the Blackhawks sake that Khabibulan improves his game so the Blackhawks do not need to bring up Raanta and Simpson this season.
If Blackhawks do need to turn to Rockford for a backup goalie, the sexy pick is Raanta, the smart pick is Simpson.