Finnish “backup” goaltender Antti Raanta, 24, recorded his first NHL shutout for the Blackhawks Monday against the L.A. Kings.
The 1-0, very physical, game was a hard fought one. The Blackhawks weathered 45 hits.
Brandon Saad scored the game-winning goal with a wrist-shot at 7:05 in the first period. Duncan Keith and Bryan Bickell were credited with the assists.
“[Bickell] had a play on the wall, we had a 2-on-1, and he made a pass that tipped off their stick and sat there for me,” Saad said. “I had some time and put it glove side.”
The Kings’ goalie stopped 29 other shots, crushing Patrick Kane’s 14-game point streak.
Raanta made 26 saves, not allowing one puck past him and earning the coveted “Number One Star of the Game.”
Starting goalie Corey Crawford has been out with a groin injury since he went down for a save Dec. 8 against the Panthers and needed help off the ice. He’s been skating with the team the past several practices and has traveled to the last couple games.
“I feel great,” Crawford told the Chicago Tribune after Monday’s United Center morning skate. “After the Christmas break, everything has gone well. I haven’t felt the injury at all on the ice. I’m ready to go.”
He’s expected to return on the road either with the Islanders Thursday or the Devils Friday.
Crawford left big pads to fill, and his backup netminder has been hot.
In Raanta’s 15 games with the Blackhawks, he has 10 wins and one loss. He has a .913 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average. The Blackhawks pulled up Kent Simpson from the Rockford Icehogs, who played 20 minutes of relief against Toronto; then recalled Jason LaBarbera as Raanta’s backup while Crawford recovered.
Meanwhile, Nikolai Khabibulin, who suffered a lower body injury Nov. 16 while playing against the Nashville Predators, has no real update.
“It’s tough to say right now because we haven’t heard much of a progress where you get an indication that we can get him on the ice,” Coach Joel Quenneville told ESPNChicago. “That’s where it’s at. I don’t want to say it’s anything longer than that. I can’t give you a better answer than that.”
However, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said recently that he expected Khabibulin to play for the Blackhawks again this season. With Khabibulin’s four appearances and 14 goals allowed this season, it’s hard to support that decision as a fan.
Regardless, Raanta is playing exceptionally well. Crawford had 17 wins in 27 games, with a .907 save percentage and a 2.47 goals allowed average. These two make a dynamic duo for protecting the Blackhawks’ goal.