On Wednesday night the Blackhawks took on the Colorado Avalanche for the last time this regular season. There was a lot riding on Wednesday’s game. Going into the game the Blackhawks lead the Avalanche by one point in the Central Division. With the new playoff format, the Blackhawks are slated to face the Avalanche in the first round. This season they have squared off four times coming into Wednesday. The current record on the season is 3-1 in favor of Colorado.
With the Blackhawks needing the 2pts to stay ahead of the Avalanche, Coach Quenneville decided to start Antti Raanta in net. Raanta has not played much since the return of Corey Crawford from injury. With Crawford returning and the Olympic break, Raanta’s last start came on January 28th against Calgary. It was a short start for Raanta as he allowed four goals on 15 shots. He was pulled in the second period.
Coach Quenneville explained his decision to start Raanta, “Well, we haven’t played him in a while, and he beat these guys. That’s part of it”. Quote courtesy of ESPN.com . Raanta has the lone Blackhawks victory against the Avalanche this season. He stopped 16 of 18 shots in the 7-2 victory over the Avalanche on December 27th.
Many Blackhawks fans and writers wondered if Raanta would be a victim of RUST in this start. In my mind, Raanta played better when he was getting starts on a regular basis. Raanta’s season numbers are 12-2-3 with a 2.40 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 19 games this season. HOWEVER Raanta has a 2.75 goals against average and .864 save percentage in his last four starts.
Well anyone who watched the game on Wednesday night knows that Raanta looked good at times and looked rusty at times. The first goal of the game by Brad Malone of the Avalanche was a soft goal and might have been a result of rust. Other times during the game, Raanta looked solid in net. Blackhawks analyst/ part-time color man Steve Konroyd mentioned that Raanta was solid in net on Wednesday. Raanta allowed three goals on 29 shots. The Blackhawks fell to the Avalanche 3-2. Blackhawks goals were scored by Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. People could argue that the Andrew Shaw penalty resulting in the Ryan O’Reilly goal was difference. Others could argue it the soft Malone goal allowed in the first. Either way three goals was too many goals allowed tonight. With the win, the Avalanche finished the regular season 4-1 against the Blackhawks.
Despite a solid effort in net by Raanta, I still believe that Crawford should have gotten the start. This was a playoff type atmosphere and Crawford has experience /success in those types of games. In my mind, I would have eased Raanta back into playing by starting him at home against Nashville.
Now that you have the facts and my thoughts on the matter, I will pose the question to you:
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