'Easy-going' Antti Raanta's transition a successful one

'Easy-going' Antti Raanta's transition a successful one
December 1, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Antti Raanta isn’t supposed to be calm.

Well, considering everything he’s had to learn quickly about hockey on this side of the pond, it doesn’t seem like he should be, anyway. Yet in the two starts the Finnish goaltender has had, he’s looked calm and collected in net. He’s been square to the net, hasn’t been flailing or uncertain on his movements.

If Raanta’s feeling nerves in his first few games with the Blackhawks, he’s not showing them.

“It was much easier to play (Saturday) than in Calgary,” Raanta said after he stopped 31 of 33 shots against Phoenix for his second victory in as many starts. “Maybe in the second period there was a little too much energy, too many splits. But I forgive myself for that.”

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Raanta’s laid-back personality probably helped his segue from the European game to the North American one. It’s certainly made him feel at home in the locker room, be it with Rockford in September and October or with the Blackhawks since he was recalled prior to the Circus Trip. And the calm demeanor is coming through in his game, too.

“You can tell with his personality he’s a pretty easy-going, happy guy. He’s playing like that in the net, too,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s nice to get him some wins. He’s played great both games he started. It’s good to see out of him.”

Coach Joel Quenneville has noticed it, too.

“I like his patience in the net,” Quenneville said. “He’s very good, has some good personality in the room, and he fit in immediately with the players, even in training camp.”

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Raanta talked about the nightmares he had prior to his first NHL start in Calgary — in one he was playing against Dallas and down 3-0 after a period. While he was thrown into an unenviable situation in the trip’s first game in Colorado, when Corey Crawford was pulled, Raanta’s looked confident in his own two starts. He’s got a 2.16 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in three appearances this season.

Many players say they’re happy to be here in the NHL. With Raanta, you don’t doubt it. Rockford goaltending coach Andrew Allen talked of Raanta’s desire to be here, how he was willing to do whatever it took to get here, and that’s evident.

Raanta is off to a good start with the Blackhawks. He’ll have his ups and downs; every young goaltender does. But given his attitude and ability to shake things off, be it a goal or a game-driven nightmare, he should fare well.

“He’s a likeable kid. But he does have that patience and poise in the net. He doesn’t get rattled, waits for the puck to come and does his thing,” Quenneville said. “His rebound control was effective. It’s good to see him respond with a good, solid game and get a win as well.”