Antti Raanta got an early start to his New Year's celebration in front of a home crowd inside the United Center on Monday night.
The Blackhawks netminder was all smiles after posting his first-career NHL shutout — leading to an on-ice celebration afterwards — in his team's 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings to close out a busy and successful year.
"It was a huge 60 minutes," Raanta said after the win. "There were a couple times in the last two minutes where I was like 'oh my God, it's like the same kind of thing last time we played against LA. They're gonna score in, like, the last two minutes.' But guys were playing really, really nice in front of me. They were blocking the shots all the time."
It's been a busy few weeks for Raanta, who's started 12 consecutive games since Corey Crawford sustained a lower-body injury. In that time, the 24-year-old Finnish netminder's posted an 8-1-3 record, making a strong case for himself as Crawford nears a return.
Now he hopes his recent run with the team has given the Blackhawks enough reason to keep him around.
"That's the plan always when you get a chance to go to the net," he said. "You try to stop all the pucks but sometimes there are some bounces. Today there were no lucky bounces."
Coach Joel Quenneville likes the 'tremendous' performance he's seen from Raanta, especially considering his quick transition to the NHL.
"He was sharp, challenged early in the game and I thought he played with a lot of confidence, which is nice to see that in a young kid," he said.
"We're happy with him, I thought he's done a great job coming in, a young kid, unproven… big games, important games. Consistency is what you look for from every player, but particularly in the way goaltenders get scrutinized, he's done a great job. He came in here and really gave us something to think about going forward. He took advantage of where he's at and I think he really enhanced his positioning in the organization."
His teammates appreciate the ways he's helped out since both Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin were lost to injuries. Tonight they were happy to see him hit a new milestone with the organization.
"He's been huge," Brandon Saad said about Raanta. "I mean with the injuries obviously and him coming in he's played great throughout the whole stretch. I'm happy for him for his first shutout, it's nice to get it at home, too. He did a great job tonight."
Raanta's worn his emotions on his sleeve since first arriving in Chicago, and that continued after the win on Monday night. He's happy to end the year on such a positive note and hopes he can continue to prove himself to the Blackhawks to kick off 2014.
"I (plan to) go home, eat good and enjoy the evening," he said of his postgame plans. "Tomorrow in New Year's eve so it's nice to have a shutout in the year's last game."