When a career backup goalie has an opportunity to become a starter, he jumps at the chance.
Antti Raanta had just that chance when in June of 2017 he was traded from the New York Rangers where he played just 55 games over two seasons. The Arizona Coyotes needed a new starting goaltender after trading former starter Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames just six days before Raanta got sent west.
Injuries hampered Raanta
Raanta may have come into training camp a bit out of shape according to head coach Rick Tocchet. That may explain why he only was between the pipes for 47 games instead of around the normal amount of say 60-65 games.
Tocchet said, “Obviously, I wish he came in better shape this summer,” Tocchet said. “But since that time, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and more. His nutrition is way better, he’s lost body fat, and he goes through practice and I don’t see him breathing heavy. To me, it’s all a positive and he’s learning. He wants to be the guy."
So for Raanta to come into training camp this September and be ready to go is impartive for his progression as a starter, and the success of the Coyotes.
He finished strongly, as did the entire team, which is very encouraging for a club who yearns dearly to be a playoff contender this coming season.
His record since February 2018 to the end of the 2017/18 season was an impressive 14-4-1. To add to that when you consider his goals against average of 2.24 for netminders who played at least 40 games, he was tied with Marc-Andre Fleury who did it in one less game.
That's pretty good company to say the least.
His save percentage was a stellar .930 which topped Fleury and Pekka Rinne who both had a .927 mark.
If Raanta stays healthy this upcoming season he can actually help his team to achieve new heights... like making the playoffs for the first time since the 2011/12 season.
A new contract should help
Not soon after the season ended President of Hockey Operations/GM John Chayka awarded Raanta with a three-year $12.75 million contract in case he wondered if he was still going to be the starting goalie next season.
I'd say he deserved it.
Now, he must get down to staying healthy (he even was involved in a car accident on his way to the arena for a game against the Dallas Stars last season) and playing more games to keep the Coyotes competitive.
If he can come into the new season with a new contract and knowing that he can be the go-to guy in net, then the Coyotes will have a much better shot at playing in the post-season.
Having a competent backup is critical
The Coyotes traded with the Los Angeles Kings for backup goalie Darcy Kuemper on February 21, 2018 in exchange for former backup Scott Wedgewood and forward Tobias Rieder.
Kuemper had a good record of 12-7-5 with a .920 save percentage and a respectable 2.52 goals against average. He added four shutouts to his record to show he can be a good backup.
While his record with the Coyotes was a bit disappointing with a 2-6-2 record, a .899 save percentage and a 3.22 goals against average, the L.A. Kings were a much better defensive team.
The hopes are for the Coyotes to step up their defense this upcoming season, and that should help Kuemper's stats significantly.
If Raanta can manage to suit up for 60-65 games with Kuemper picking up the remainder due to back to back games, injuries, etc. then the Yotes should be set in goal.
Raanta at his best
When he's on he's tough to beat, like any NHL goalie who gets in a zone. It is hoped that Antti Raanta can come into his own this season and show everyone (including himself) that he is the starting goalie he always knew he could be.
With saves like these... who can argue?
How vital will it be for the Arizona Coyotes to have a healthy Antti Raanta in goal this next season? Let us know in the comments section below.