Last season, the Rangers were defined for a part of the year not by the play of the King, but of the Prince.
Henrik Lundqvist’s injury in January could have put a damper on the Rangers year, however Cam Talbot stepped up and filled in nicely until No. 30 could return.
Talbot was sent to Edmonton in the offseason, as the Rangers looked to get maximum value for their backup goalie and in came Antti Raanta, late of the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost his backup job last season in the Windy City.
But fret not. Since Raanta signed with the Rangers, he was automatically enrolled in the Benoit Allaire goalie academy. Over the past 12 years Allaire took ordinary goalies, such as Marty Biron, Steve Valiquette, and Talbot and made them into superb backup.
So Chicago prefers Scott Darling to Raanta? No problem. Allaire now has a new project and every day, he’s there before practice with his new pupil.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Benoit and Annti on that,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “You see them working before practice on different aspects of his game. We have put him in two situations where points are on the line. Like tonight there is no doubt in the game tonight he makes a save and then stops the rebound. It’s the turning point of the game. You need those timely save that permit guys to define their rhythm and we got that tonight.”
In a perfect work, the Rangers would like Raanta to sub for Lundqvist 20 times during the season. It will keep the King fresh for the playoffs. However, the Rangers will need to win a good portion of those games to fight for the playoffs and playoff position. So Raanta needs to be a 1A to Lundqvist’s No. 1.
There’s some work to do here.
“I think Henrik is one of the best goalies in the world and I’m not there yet,” Raanta said. “Whenever you go to a new team, it’s how you play the puck or go behind the net. I haven’t been trying to do too much with the puck yet. I am trying to do my own thing and go on and on and then once you get to know the guys, you try to play the puck around the net, the way they want you to play it.
“When you are working with Benoit and Hank, you are trying to incorporate certain things into your game.”
Raanta is now 2-0 after the Rangers 4-1 win over the Flames tonight. It’s only two games, but he’s only allowed one goal so far (0.50 GAA) with a .978 save percentage stopping 44 of 45 shots in two games.
He was good in Chicago, but getting better now since he’s under Allaire’s tutelage.
And what does the goaltending guru tell his pupil?
“Just the small simple things,” Raanta said. “Find the puck. Keep your eyes on the puck and locate it. Play the situation before in your head. Today how you scored they scored the first goal, I saw the was going back door, but that thinking was not in my legs yet, so I did try to make a desperate save. And with the point shots, you always try to have your eyes on the puck. Small things but also big things in the game. It’s been a great first month with Benny and I hope to work with him more and more.”
Oh he will, since the Garden goal is a perfectionist’s dream. Lundqvist’s attention to detail is legendary, which is something he got from Allaire. Raanta is now learning the system and getting with the program.
“As we get more and more season here and you get more and more comfortable playing here,” Raanta said. “I think I’m moving better now and I’m working harder to see the puck and not going on the butterfly and hoping the puck hits you. I think I’m working a little bit harder in practice and when you work harder in practice you bring those things to the game.”
Practice makes perfect and winning gives you satisfaction and makes a play look forward to coming to the rink every day.
“I try to enjoy the game as well and I’m trying to have some fun there too.”
Keep winning Antti and the fun will come.
Just ask Lundqvist.