CHICAGO | Antti Raanta’s consistent play filling in for the injured Corey Crawford may get the rookie goalie more starts even after Crawford returns, possibly as early as Thursday.
After his 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, the 24-year-old Raanta was 10-1-3 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .913 saves percentage.
“Particularly the way goaltenders get scrutinized as far as efficiency, he did a great job,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I just think he came in here and really gave us something to think about going forward. A real good opportunity knowing he took advantage of where he’s at. I think he really enhanced his position in the organization as well.”
Quenneville was specifically asked if Crawford and Raanta could split starts to give Crawford more rest in a playing-time model that worked last season.
Crawford and the departed Ray Emery, now with the Flyers, shared duties in the regular season before Crawford made every postseason start in the Hawks’ Stanley Cup run last spring.
“I think that’s something we’ll definitely look at,” Quenneville said. “It’s nice to see Corey come back and let’s get him (going). It’s a nice situation. (Raanta) really, really helped us solidify (the goalie position).”
Winning atmosphere not new: It’s obvious the Hawks are feeding off a winning atmosphere enhanced by their two Stanley Cup championships in four seasons.
But Hawks pre- and post-game TV analyst Steve Konroyd, a former Hawks defenseman, said the positive vibes were felt even prior to the first title in 2010.
“A bunch of the young guys coming up, whether it was Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, they were used to winning in college, juniors, wherever they were,” Konroyd said. “I think it really changed the culture of the team.
“I think it goes to Rocky Wirtz taking over the franchise, the changing of the culture from that aspect. And Joel Quenneville coming in. He had a winning resume. He hadn’t won a Stanley Cup, but he was a highly-regarded coach.
“It was a number of factors, and I think it was a perfect storm. It was the sum of a lot of parts.”
Konroyd played on the 1991 Hawks, who won the President’s Trophy for most points in the regular season. But the Hawks were ousted in the first round of playoffs. That team did not have a title to draw upon for inspiration.
“What winning a championship does for you, it gives you that extra level of confidence,” Konroyd said.
Defense gets credit from the inside-out: The Hawks can play stifling defense, as the Kings’ victory demonstrated. But that side of the puck has taken a back seat in profile amid the recent flurries of goals.
Quenneville, though, isn’t underrating the defensive work. In fact, the great offense stems from thwarting opponents’ forward progress.
“I think our offense is definitely directly related to us checking and getting the puck back and trying to get it where you don’t even get in your end,” Quenneville said.
“I think there’s that type of gap with our defensemen. Our defensemen are part of the attack, exiting the zone, the way they play in the offensive zone off the points. Then our offensive ability takes over. But I still think puck pursuit, quickness, take advantage of our strengths and some of our skills, I think that plays hand-in-hand with our defensive game.”