- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Antti Raanta has discovered watching playoff hockey to be more stressful than playing in it.
Raanta led Porin Assat as its starting goaltender to a SM-liiga title in Finland in the spring of 2013. Now this spring, he's the Chicago Blackhawks backup goaltender as they pursue the Stanley Cup.
"Just a couple days ago, I was thinking about those [SM-liiga] games," Raanta said after practice on Tuesday. "It was pretty fun just going and playing games, just focusing on the one game at a time. Now it's like you're thinking so much on the bench because you have no chance to do anything. Just try to stay positive and say good things to the guys when they're making good stuff on the ice. I'm much more nervous than last year at this time."
Raanta has tried to manage his nerves during games, but also stay prepared just in case he's needed to replace No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford. Raanta doesn't want anything to happen to Crawford, but he was reminded by the recent injury to Montreal Canadiens starting goaltender Carey Price that there are no certainties.
"I think every goalie is thinking, it doesn't matter if you're a backup or a starter, there is a chance something happen," Raanta said. "You're never hoping that.
"I think Montreal fans are a little unhappy now, but that's hockey and that's life. Sometimes that happens, so you just have to be ready to react to that sort of thing."
Raanta has tried to use the Blackhawks' morning skates and practices to keep him on top of his game. He's found it beneficial to have teammates such as Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews putting shots on him.
"If you maybe make a good save in practice with these guys, I think you're ready to play a game," Raanta said. "That's a good thing for me to practice with these guys and trying to work hard and trying to keep my goal empty. That's real good practice for me. I try to take every practice like a game and try to learn something new. It's a positive thing."
Raanta has also enjoyed watching Crawford perform as well as he has in the playoffs.
"When he's moving, he's moving so good in the crease," Raanta said. "Sometimes he's just waiting for the shot to come to him. He doesn't have to do split saves or anything like that. He's all the time in the right place. He's all the time making the right moves. That's really the type of things you want to learn also yourself to start using those in a game. That's why we've been practicing with [goalie coaching Steve Weeks] all the time. Hopefully I can get in sometimes, and I can show those in the game also."
Raanta is set to become a restricted free agent after the season and has said he'd like to re-sign with the Blackhawks.
"For sure, it has been great from Day 1," Raanta said. "Of course, I want to get a good summer. [This] summer get myself even readier to come here and start fighting with [Crawford] even more like, keep on battling with him. First year is now almost over. Now you know a little bit what you have to do and a little bit of what you don't want to do. I think it will be much easier to come here next season. But we'll see what happens in the summer time. Now we just focus on these games."
"I have no idea [about negotiations]. I haven't even talked with my agent. I said, 'Let's talk after the season if there isn't anything big coming.' We'll see after the games."