If there were any doubts about the New York Rangers’ new backup goaltender Antti Raanta for the 2015-2016 season — they’ve been completely erased.
Raanta, a former netminder for the Chicago Blackhawks, was signed this past offseason to replace former Rangers’ hero, Cam Talbot (traded to Edmonton Oilers in June). Through New York’s first ten games head coach Alain Vigneault hasn’t hesitated to turn to the Finland native, and Vigneault may even look to utilize Raanta more now.
Raanta has started in two of the Rangers’ games so far, and has proven to be nothing shy of dominant. In the 26-year-old’s first game with the Broadway Blueshirts he posted a shutout against the San Jose Sharks and recorded 22 saves. Not bad for a first impression at Madison Square Garden, right?
Although Raanta’s most recent performance against the Calgary Flames didn’t entail a shutout for the netminder — his play was still impressive. Raanta helped New York defeat a desperate Flames team by a score of 4-1 on Sunday October 25. While the Flames struck early on an even-strength goal by Jiri Hudler 3:06 into the game Raanta shut the door the rest of the way out. No. 32 stopped seven of the eight shots he faced in the first period, 10 in the second and five in the third.
Raanta was not only named the game’s first star, but was also named the NHL’s second star of the night. What’s interesting is that Raanta’s win on Sunday improved his career record for home-games-played to 16-0-3.
There’s no place like home. Antti Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career on home ice. pic.twitter.com/nSkGXNr2wO
— NHL (@NHL) October 26, 2015
Not only will Vigneault continue to feel comfortable starting Henrik Lundqvist’s backup at MSG in front of the Garden Faithful, but the team will turn to “The King’s” right-hand man against Western Conference teams. Both of Raanta’s starts have been against the West, as the former Blackhawk is familiar with the teams from the opposing conference.
Raanta’s career numbers are as follows; A record of 22-9-5; Goals-Against-Average (GAA) of 2.31; Save-Percentage of .915. This season, Raanta has been flawless; Record of 2-0-0; GAA of .50; Save-Percentage of .978.
Yes, it’s only a small sample and still early in the season, but Raanta is not only an above-average backup goaltender — but in my opinion Raanta could be considered a starting netminder; and perhaps will land a starting job in the near future just like Talbot did this past summer.
The Rangers backup is on pace to start under 20 games for the season, but that will change as this “other important piece to the puzzle” for New York’s ultimate goal — has proven himself worthy to start in 20-plus starts and not just give Lundqvist a night off — but help this team continue to add “W’s” to its win column.