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Thus begins the reign of Antti Raanta for Blackhawks

Greg Wyshynski
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You know how this is going to go:

That Antti Raanta, who is already 4-0-1 on the season and hasn’t given up more than two goals in any of his six appearances, is going to take the goaltending reins for the Chicago Blackhawks with Corey Crawford on the shelf and go on some ungodly run that makes everyone Team Raanta and strengthens the chorus of critics wondering why Crawford is signed through 2020 ...

OK, maybe not.

When either Nikolai Khabibulin or Crawford heal up, Raanta’s back down the depth chart and, eventually, back down in the AHL. But in the meantime, the Blackhawks are going to get a glimpse of a goalie that swept nearly every available award in the Finnish League last season, as he's expected to start against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.

(It’s Rivalry Night, don’t forget. I mean, the Flyers probably have, since most of the players from 2010 are gone or Chris Pronger. But hey, RIVALS, right?)

Justin Goldman of the Goalie Guild wondered if he’s the nest great Antti in the NHL (better than Miettinen?!):

Listed at 6-foot, he has the prototypical quick feet and active hands, fluid reactions and great balance, and the ability to shift and contort his body to make dynamic saves in tight. He seals the ice very well on low shots and has the flexibility to adjust his upper body in order to see around traffic. He’s nimble, aggressive, competitive, and very responsive.

After dissecting the notes and video, it was easy to see the crux of his transition to the smaller ice is all about control. He’ll have to focus on the “less is more” approach by displaying patience on his skates and the ability to not get caught unnecessarily lunging or reaching for pucks. As the talent and the speed of games increases, he’ll have to work that much harder to stay in control and not over-react.

He’s started the last three games, going 2-0-1 and stopping 80 of 86 shots. He’s benefited from a Blackhawks penalty kill that’s thwarted 10 straight power plays, and from a Blackhawks offense that posted back-to-back six spots against the Panthers and Stars.

But Raanta’s played well when they’ve needed it. “When games have been on the line he's been solid for us. You like his approach and his competitiveness,” said Coach Joel Quenneville.

The Blackhawks have Raanta for one season before he goes unrestricted, and one assumes the backup gig could be his with Khabibulin on a one-year deal as well. They’ll be a good audition. One that might scare the crap out of Crawford, but a good one nonetheless.

Maybe Ray Emery will take'em out tonight, do his old buddy Crawford a solid.

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