Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Dilemna: What to do with Antti Raanta ?

By Sean Fitzgerald

Dec 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta (31) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week the Chicago Blackhawks announced that Corey Crawford will resume skating this week. Antti Raanta has taken over the starting goalie duties during Crawford’s time off.

Raanta has played pretty well in place of Crawford. Raanta has posted impressive numbers in Crawford absence. Raanta is 7-1-1 with a 92% save percentage and 2.26 goals against. Raanta save percentage and goals against are actually better than Crawford’s 90.7 save percentage and 2.47 goals against.  Now there is not going to be a goalie controversy in Chicago, everyone knows Crawford is the number one goalie.

Once Crawford comes back from his injury. Crawford should resume his role as starting goalie. That begs the question, what do the Blackhawks do with Antti Raanta? There has been some speculation that Raanta will be sent back down to Rockford once Crawford returns. The only logical explanation for that speculation is that Raanta needs to continue to get the bulk of starts. With Crawford getting the bulk of the playing time at the NHL level. In order for the Raanta to continue to develop, he must start regularly. The other explanation for the speculation about Raanta has to do with the acquisition of Jason LaBarbera. LaBarbera has significantly more NHL experience than Raanta and is a career backup. LaBarbera does not need to play regularly and his ceiling has already been reached.

The Blackhawks should keep Raanta at the NHL and here are three reasons why:

1. Raanta will continue to develop at the NHL level: By being Crawford backup, Raanta will still have to face the Blackhawks players in practice in addition to continue to make starts at the NHL level. Facing the Blackhawks will be better competition than Raanta would face in the AHL.

2.Crawford and Raanta can be a great goalie duo: Crawford will need to be eased back into his starting goalie role. Raanta has shown in his 10 games played that he can play at the NHL level. Raanta can help ease Crawford’s transition. He also has shown that he does not buckle under the pressure. In my mind Crawford and Raanta can post better numbers than Crawford and Emery posted last season. I believe that Raanta is that good.

3. Raanta is a reliable backup goalie: The Blackhawks have been searching this entire season for a reliable backup goalie. Nikolai Khabibulin was supposed to be the backup to Crawford to start the year; while Raanta developed in Rockford. The narrative did not play out this way. Khabibulin was not reliable backup goalie. Khabby posted a 1-0-1 with 5.00 goals against and an 81.1 save percentage before being injuried.The Blackhawks recently traded for career backup goalie Jason LaBarbera.   LaBarbera is 60-73 with a 2.86 goals against and 90.7 save percentage. In my mind despite his limited experience, I believe that Raanta is the better option.

I hope for the Blackhawks sake, they do not send Antti Raanta down to Rockford, but do indeed keep him at the NHL level. I guess we will have to wait and see on this one.

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