Raanta gets first career shutout in Blackhawks’ physical 1-0 win
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter December 30, 2013 9:48PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 11:13PM
It’s not in Antti Raanta’s nature to be pessimistic, but, understand, he had seen this movie before — clinging to a shutout as the minutes melted away late in the third period against the Los Angeles Kings. He was in the same situation two weeks ago, and he started thinking about the shutout, and, sure enough, the Kings scored what proved to be a meaningless goal with less than four minutes to play.
So as the Blackhawks held a 1-0 lead late in Monday night’s game against the same Kings, Raanta braced for the worst.
“I was like, oh my God, it’s the same kind of thing as last time,” Raanta said. “They’re going to score, like, in the last two minutes.”
Not this time.
Raanta — with some help from Johnny Oduya and Duncan Keith, who each broke up Kings breakaways in the third period — earned his first career shutout in the Hawks’ 1-0 victory over Los Angeles. He even stopped his first penalty shot in the process, getting down in time to turn aside Dustin Brown’s wrist shot in the second period.
Raanta has struggled in shootouts, but said he was better suited to the penalty shot.
“It was good it came inside the game, because I didn’t have too much time to think,” he said.
The win capped a tough four-night stretch in which the Hawks faced three of the best the West has to offer. They crushed Colorado, blew a late lead in a shootout loss to St. Louis, then staved off Los Angeles, earning five of a possible six points.
It very well might have been Raanta’s last game as the Hawks’ No. 1 goalie, with Corey Crawford expected to dress on the upcoming trip to Long Island and New Jersey. But the rookie Raanta put an exclamation point on his run of 10 straight starts, giving a triple two-handed fist pump on one leg as he whirled around the United Center after being named the game’s first star.
“When the hobby turns to a job, it’s pretty nice to have the chance to go to the ice and just keep on having fun,” Raanta said.
The Hawks needed every one of Raanta’s 26 saves to make Brandon Saad’s first-period goal stand up, because there wasn’t much offense to be had. This was the game the Kings wanted to play — the kind of bruising, physical, grinding affair they simply weren’t healthy enough to pull off in last spring’s Western Conference finals.
The Kings had eight registered hits in the first four minutes. Colin Fraser dumped Michal Rozsival over the boards midway through the first period. Tyler Toffoli smushed both Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell into the glass in the second. It was hard-hitting, plodding, defensive hockey — just the way the Kings like it.
But the Hawks showed a little sandpaper themselves, with Shaw throwing a game-high nine hits, including a plastering of Mike Richards with some help from Bickell. Sure, the Hawks prefer to play an end-to-end, fast-paced game. But armed with arguably the top defensive corps in the league, the Hawks feel they can adapt to any style — just as they did against Los Angeles and Boston in the playoffs.
“Being that versatile out there is something that’s huge for us,” said Saad, who scored on a two-on-one with Bickell, even though Bickell’s pass was deflected by Kings defenseman Matt Greene. “That’s a big reason we have success.”
And it was the Hawks who did the clogging up and shutting down in the third period, as Raanta only had to make five saves.
“We always try to stick with what we do best, and that’s using our speed and our skill,” Keith said. “I think a lot of it comes down to being disciplined when another team’s physical, and not retaliating and getting frustrated. It’s just believing in what works for us.”