Raanta delivering consistency in net

The Chicago Blackhawks have been getting a better idea of what they have in rookie goaltender Antti Raanta over the past few weeks.

Raanta has now appeared in seven games and made six consecutive starts since Corey Crawford was injured Dec. 8. Over that time, Raanta has been exactly what the Blackhawks hoped: He’s been consistently solid.

Since Crawford’s injury, the Blackhawks have gone 5-1-1, and Raanta has a 2.14 goals-against average and has stopped 174 of 189 shots for a .921 save percentage.

Raanta’s numbers were also affected by the five goals he allowed on 25 shots against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 14. Aside from that game, he hasn’t given up more than two goals in 11 appearances this season.

Raanta’s consistency can especially be seen in his quality starts, which is an advanced statistic used to judge when a goaltender gives his team a chance to win. A quality start is recorded when a goaltender has a .917 save percentage or higher or has at least a .885 save percentage along with two or fewer goals against. Eight of Raanta’s nine starts this season have been quality starts.

Raanta’s even-strength numbers haven’t been anything special. He’s stopped 190 of 206 shots for a .922 even-strength save percentage, which ranks him 24th in the league among goaltenders with at least 10 appearances. Crawford had been slightly better this season with a .926 even-strength save percentage.

Where Raanta has fared better is against power plays. Raanta has stopped 63 of 70 power-play shots for a .900 save percentage, which ranks 19th in the league. Crawford made 69 saves on 88 power-play shots for a .784 save percentage.

Raanta’s numbers suggest he’s on his way to providing the Blackhawks close to what Ray Emery gave them last season. Emery made 13 quality starts in 19 starts and had an overall .922 save percentage in 21 games last season.

Crawford will undoubtedly step back into the starting role when he returns, which will likely be in early January, but Raanta’s emergence could give Chicago the goaltending depth it is apt to need over the remainder of the season, which will include eight sets of back-to-back games after Jan. 1 and 15 games over the season’s final four weeks.