For the second straight season Antti Raanta proved himself to be an excellent understudy to Henrik Lundqvist. And now, after being traded on draft day, he has a chance to win a starring role in the desert with the Arizona Coyotes.
Raanta posed a record of 16-8-2 in the 26 games he started last season for the Rangers. In addition to that impressive winning record the Finnish netminder also posted four shutouts - two more than Lundqvist had in 29 more starts.
In his second season on Broadway Raanta’s save percentage and goals against average were just as impressive as they were in the 2015-16 season. His .922 save percentage ranked 11th in the league among goaltenders who made at least 20 starts. An impressive feat for a goaltender with a cap hit of just $1 million.
When Lundqvist struggled early in the season and suffered a hip injury in March it was Raanta who the Rangers leaned on. He didn’t disappoint.
“I don’t try to be Hank,” Raanta said after Lundqvist’s injury. “I just try to be myself ... I know that every time when I play, it’s always been a big thing for me to show what I can do.”
When the Rangers were trying to get their act together before the playoffs, Raanta was one of the few players who clearly elevated his game. He posted a .927 save percentage in nine starts in March. Two of his four wins during that span were shutouts and on two occasions the Rangers lost in overtime.
Raanta outperformed the vast majority of backup goaltenders last season behind a deeply flawed defense. To be fair to Lundqvist, the team typically performed better in front of their backup. But that doesn’t take away from just how valuable Raanta was.
The Rangers almost certainly wouldn’t have reached the 2017 Playoffs without him.
Final Grade: A
Raanta is pretty close to the textbook definition of an ideal back-up goaltender. When he was between the pipes he always gave the Rangers a chance to win. And on some nights last season he looked sharper than the Rangers Hall of Fame-bound goaltender.
There’s no other way to say it: Raanta was the team’s most consistent goalie during the 2016-17 regular season.
Raanta is the best goaltender to leave the organization since the Rangers dealt Cam Talbot to the Oilers. The same day that the Rangers dealt Talbot was also the day the team acquired Raanta from the Blackhawks. The cost? Ryan Haggerty. There’s no debate about who won that trade.
Raanta did nothing but exceed expectations and impress during his two seasons in New York. The Coyotes just landed a damn good goaltender.