While Blackhawks’ Starting Goalie Corey Crawford was out with an injury, Rookie Antti Raanta played great. He played so well, in fact, that he was named Co-Rookie of the Month for December, along with Los Angeles Kings’ Goalie Marvin Jones. Crawford has since returned from injury, and has played well, but the wins have not followed him. Instead of blaming Crawford on the losses, Blackhawk fans should be looking at a much more surprising problem: inconsistency.
According to USA Today Sports, Raanta and Crawford have very similar stats. Both Goalies own a .911 Save Percentage, with Crawford owning a 2.47 GAA, as opposed to Raanta’s 2.25. At even strength, Crawford has a clear advantage in Save Percentage, .925 to .912.
Crawford’s record is 0-3-1 since his return against the New York Islanders on Jan. 2. He has a GAA of 2.44 over that time period, yet also has a .931 Save Percentage. Raanta has played two games since Crawford’s return, and has a GAA of just under 2.50 while holding a .894 Save Percentage. Raanta’s record for those games is 2-0-0.
This is not to say Raanta hasn’t played well, because he still has. The fact is that this Crawford has played better, regardless of results, since his return. The skaters in front of him just are not playing at the same level as when Raanta is in the game. That could be because of the competition (Raanta’s wins are against the Devils and Oilers, while Crawford’s losses have come to the Islanders, Rangers, Sharks, and Canadiens), but still is scary for the fans. If they can’t get themselves to play at the same level they did before Crawford’s injury, are they doomed to an early playoff exit?
Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t have a tough decision to make. Raanta is an unproven Goalie with only a good month and a half of NHL hockey . When compared to Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford, who is playing at a higher level, there’s no real debate as to who he will go with moving forward. The players in front of the Blackhawks’ Goalie have been the problem for Coach Q.
Raanta has gotten 10 goals in support during his two January appearances. Crawford has gotten only seven in the four games he’s played this month.
While fans love wins, and therefore have been very supportive of Raanta, the fact is that the team might have a problem. Last season, the team went 16-7 in the playoffs. This January, the team is 2-3-1 against an average schedule. This record includes no games against the Blues, Canucks, Ducks, or Kings, and a Shootout loss to the Sharks, teams known as the other “powers” of the Western Conference.
Fans should be upset with the results recently, but when it comes down to it, the blame can’t be on Crawford, but instead the inconsistencies of the skaters in front of him. Calls for Raanta to start over Crawford have no merit, but wanting a more consistent play from the depth players on the bottom two lines, as well as the stars on some nights, is a legitimate gripe.