Chicago Blackhawks: Antti Raanta

Crawford improving from upper-body injury

October, 25, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was scheduled to skate in Chicago on Saturday after recently suffering an upper-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford will miss a third consecutive game Saturday due to the injury. He last practiced Monday. He is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season.

“Crawford was to skate here this morning,” Quenneville said. “And we’ll know more tomorrow. Hopefully, he’s back on the ice tomorrow. He’s going much better.”

Quenneville said he doesn’t expect Crawford to play against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. Quenneville said rookie goaltender Scott Darling could make his NHL debut against the Senators.

Antti Raanta will start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. He is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in his two starts in Crawford’s place.

Crawford to miss two more games

October, 22, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will miss the next two games due to an upper-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Wednesday.

Quenneville said Crawford will not travel with the team to play the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. He hoped Crawford would resume skating while the team was away.

Crawford practiced on Monday and didn’t show any signs of an injury, but Quenneville said Crawford didn’t feel good on Monday night and felt worse on Tuesday morning. Crawford sat out Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. He started the team's first four games.

Antti Raanta replaced Crawford and stopped all 32 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Flyers on Tuesday. Raanta is expected to start the next two games.

The Blackhawks have back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. Quenneville said he would address his starting goaltender for Sunday’s game against the Ottawa Senators on the day of the game. He said Scott Darling, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Tuesday, could start on Sunday.

Raanta's season debut a sharp shutout

October, 21, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta was fine with waiting nearly two weeks for his first start of the season.

It was the wait to make his first save on Tuesday that tried his patience.

Raanta learned Tuesday morning he would replace Corey Crawford, who is injured, and make his season debut against the Philadelphia Flyers. Raanta was excited for the opportunity and was eager to face his first shot Tuesday evening.

[+] EnlargeRaanta
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta found out Tuesday morning he would get his first start of the season, then had to wait for more than seven minutes to see his first shot.
The problem is, the Blackhawks’ defense wasn’t allowing the Flyers any early opportunities. Raanta had to wait for 7 minutes, 30 seconds before a puck finally hit him.

“I was feeling all the time pretty good,” Raanta said. “Of course, the first shot was waiting a little bit longer than I was hoping.”

Raanta made that first save and then went on to make 31 more on his way to a 32-save shutout performance in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 win. It was his second career shutout.

“After that first one, I was just in the game all the time,” Raanta said.

Raanta wasn’t challenged much early, but the Flyers made up for that as the game wore on. Raanta made 10 saves in the second period and 13 more saves in the third period.

Raanta’s saves weren’t simple, either. He had to react and quickly move across the net twice to make saves during a minute's span in the second period. He used his chest to knock down a close shot by Jakub Voracek on a power play late in the game.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed.

“Real solid, square, confident,” Quenneville said of Raanta. “They had some high quality stuff, particularly in that second period. He moved quick. He was definitely in control tonight. Nice to see him get a win and get a big game for himself as well.”

Raanta couldn’t take all the credit. He was especially grateful defenseman Brent Seabrook cleared a puck from sliding into the net in the third period.

“I was hoping more we could win,” Raanta said. “The shutout is always special. Big thanks to the guys who were helping me. Seabsy got one save also from the goal line. There was lots of blocking shots. Sometimes I was somewhere else than blocking the net and the guys were just diving and saving the puck.

“Of course, it’s a great feeling and good way to start my season. Of course, it’s good. Just have to keep on working hard. Tomorrow again, forget about this game and go forward.”

W2W4: Flyers at Blackhawks

October, 21, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Tuesday:

• The Blackhawks will be without No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford due to an upper-body injury. Antti Raanta will make his season debut. Raanta learned he would start on Tuesday morning. He was 13-5-4 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .897 save percentage as a rookie during the 2013-14 season.

• Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will also make his season debut Tuesday after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

• The Blackhawks are riding a four-game points streak with a 3-0-1 record to start the season. They have been pleased with their record and their shot quantity -- they’re averaging a league-best 40 shots on goal per game -- but haven’t been happy with their goal quantity. They have scored 11 goals, with six of those coming in one game. Their 11 goals have been divided between six at even strength, three on the power play and two shorthanded.

• The Flyers arrive in Chicago with a 1-2-2 record and are coming off a 6-5 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds each have seven points for the Flyers. Simmonds is tied for second in the league with five goals. Goaltender Steve Mason will start in net. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.78 goals-against average and .865 save percentage this season.

• Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has switched up his lines in hope of getting more offense. His first three lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Versteeg – Andrew ShawPatrick Kane and Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBrandon Saad. The fourth line will include Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, but Quenneville wouldn’t say whether Daniel Carcillo or Jeremy Morin would also be on that line. The Blackhawks’ defenseman pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van RiemsdykMichal Rozsival.

• The Blackhawks’ focus will be on improving their power play. They were 0-for-5 on the advantage Saturday and are 3-for-21 for the season.

“You could talk about every area the other night and say it has to be better,” Quenneville said. “Faceoffs, retrievals, shot selection, lack of shots, entries, every area. We have to be better across the board. We can’t be happy with the last game.”

Blackhawks' Day 3 training camp notes

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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Here are some notes and tidbits from the Chicago Blackhawks training camp at Notre Dame on Sunday:

  • Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he expected Ben Smith to get first crack at Michal Handzus' penalty-killing role. Handzus and Marcus Kruger were normally the team’s top forward pairing on penalty kills last season. Smith was fifth among the Blackhawks forwards last season with 95:46 of short-handed ice time. Handzus played 148:19 on the penalty kill.

  • Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane commented on how much he and his teammates enjoyed using the shooting and stick-handling rooms at Notre Dame’s hockey facility. Kane believed the Blackhawks organization understood the players’ desire for similar perks.

    “I don’t think we need to pitch it to them,” Kane said. “I think they know. There are rumors about what’s going on with the practice rink and things like that, so we’ll see what happens. I’m sure they’ll try to put something in like that, too.”

  • (Read full post)

    Hawks storylines (No. 2): Crawford in net

    September, 19, 2014
    Sep 19
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    ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers counts down to Friday's opening of the Chicago Blackhawks' training camp with a look at 20 storylines facing the team this season.

    Corey Crawford was one of the primary reasons why the Chicago Blackhawks reached the Western Conference finals last season.

    He was extraordinary in net through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Without his 34-save shutout against the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of their first-round series, the Blackhawks likely don’t advance to the second round. All told, Crawford stopped 351 of 377 shots for a .931 save percentage in the first two rounds.

    The seven games of the Western Conference finals weren’t as kind to Crawford. He allowed 26 goals and had a .878 save percentage against the Los Angeles Kings in the series.

    Crawford wasn’t to blame for all of the goals, but he took responsibility for the end result. If the Blackhawks are going to make another Stanley Cup run, they need him to be better.

    “It wasn't good enough,” the 29-year-old Crawford said after last season of his own play. "We lost. It was too many goals. Take away the Game 2, that was a blowout in the third period. That couldn't happen, but it did. They seemed to get a lot of traffic in front of the net. I felt pretty much all year I was pretty strong battling through traffic and finding pucks, and that was probably the worst part of my game in that series.”

    After an up-and-down 2013-14, Crawford will be aiming for more consistency this season. He struggled early in the season and had .907 save percentage through his first 27 games. He went down with an injury in December and was a different player when he returned in January, posting a .926 save percent over the final regular-season 32 games. He finished with a .917 save percentage, which put him 15th in the league among goalies with at least 40 games.

    Crawford is expected to shoulder a heavy starting load again this season. It would be beneficial both to him and the Blackhawks if Antti Raanta became more comfortable in the backup role. Raanta’s struggles as the No. 2 goalie late last season didn’t allow Crawford much rest -- a change from the previous season, in which the balance between Ray Emery and Crawford was key to Chicago's regular-season success.

    Hawks storylines (No. 17): Backup goalie

    September, 9, 2014
    Sep 9
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    ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers counts down the days to the opening of Blackhawks training camp on Sept. 19 with a look at 20 storylines facing the team this season.

    The Chicago Blackhawks head into another season with the luxury of not having to worry about their No. 1 goaltender.

    [+] EnlargeAntti Raanta
    Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta thrived during a 10-game stretch as the No. 1 goalie when Corey Crawford went down with an injury in December.
    Corey Crawford has that spot locked down, especially with his six-year, $36 million deal going into effect this season. Crawford will be the first to admit he needs to be more consistent this season, but the Blackhawks also need the same from their backup goaltenders to have a successful regular season.

    Antti Raanta and Nikolai Khabibulin didn't consistently provide the Blackhawks with stability when they stepped into the net for Crawford last season. Raanta and Khabibulin combined for an .887 save percentage (607 saves on 684 shots) in their 26 games last season.

    Raanta, who agreed to a two-year contract extension in the offseason, is expected to start this season as the No. 2 goalie again. Some of his struggles weren't a complete surprise last season. He was rushed to the NHL quicker than the Blackhawks had hoped because of an injury suffered by Khabibulin. The original plan was to give Raanta time in the AHL to adjust to the North American game after playing his entire career in Europe.

    Raanta, 25, actually held his own when Crawford went down with an injury in December. Raanta was the team's No. 1 goaltender for 10 games and allowed two or less goals in eight of those games and had a save percentage of .917 or higher in six games.

    Raanta struggled in the No. 2 role when Crawford returned from his injury. Raanta played in nine games from Jan. 12 to the end of the season and had an .870 save percentage during that span.

    "There were good games, a couple not so good games," Raanta said after the season. "It was like steady all the time, lots of good things happen. But the second half of the season there was too much ups and downs in the games and in the practice, so I think that was the main reason why I didn't get so much playing time in the last games. Of course, first year here and first year overseas out of the home country and like that, so there was lots of learning experiment."

    The Blackhawks bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Michael Leighton recently. Leighton, 33, has a 35-41-14 record with a 2.97 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 105 career NHL games. He played last season in the KHL, where he was 20-15 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He provides the Blackhawks with another goaltender with NHL experience if Crawford or Raanta are injured.

    The Blackhawks also signed Scott Darling in the offseason. Darling, 25, showed potential in the AHL last season. He was 13-6-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage for the Milwaukee Admirals. He ranked second in the league with six shutouts.

    Darling and Leighton are expected to share the net for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL to begin the season. The Blackhawks also have goaltender prospects Mac Carruth and Kent Simpson.

    Blackhawks progressing on to-do list

    July, 2, 2014
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    The Chicago Blackhawks and their general manager, Stan Bowman, have already accomplished a lot in the NHL offseason. Here's a look at what they have done and what they still need to do:

    What's done

    1. Obtaining a second-line center: The Blackhawks couldn't have taken care of this any better. Considering their cap restraints and Teuvo Teravainen waiting in the wings, the Blackhawks found the perfect solution to their problem in Brad Richards. He's a skilled veteran center who wasn't concerned about money or the length of his contract and is focused solely on winning a Stanley Cup.

    [+] EnlargeBrad Richards
    Rebecca Taylor/Getty ImagesBrad Richards is an affordable solution to the Blackhawks' need for a second-line center.
    2. Re-signing key restricted free agents: The Blackhawks re-signed Jeremy Morin, Antti Raanta and Ben Smith to two-year contracts, and they did so cheaply. Their three contracts combine for a $3.05 million cap hit per season. Considering the upside of all three players, that's a steal for the Blackhawks. If given a consistent chance in the lineup, Morin could be a 20-plus goal scorer. Smith displayed his versatility and consistency last season. He could also be the answer to replace Michal Handzus on the penalty kill. Raanta had some ups and downs in his first NHL season, but he should be more comfortable and consistent in the net in Year 2.

    3. Fine-tune their roster: The Blackhawks re-signed Peter Regin, which should give them additional forward depth. They traded Brandon Bollig, which allowed them to clear some cap space. They also decided not to re-sign Handzus. They reportedly still haven't closed the door on Sheldon Brookbank.

    4. Add an NHL-ready goaltender to the AHL: The Blackhawks accomplished that by signing Scott Darling to a one-year deal Tuesday. Darling was 13-6-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season. He ranked second in the league with six shutouts. The Rockford IceHogs didn't have a goaltender who recorded a shutout last season. Darling will also give prospects Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth another year to develop.

    5. Focus on the distant future in the draft: The Blackhawks weren't looking for any immediate impact players in the draft. Their first-round pick, Nick Schmaltz, may have the talent to leave college after a few years, but he's still a ways away from the NHL. They also drafted six other players who will either begin college in 2014 or 2015. Their other two draft picks are from Europe and will be given time to develop.

    What still needs to be done

    1. Re-sign Kane and Toews: Bowman fully expects to re-sign Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the near future, and there's no reason to doubt him at this point. It could still happen as early as the next few days.

    2. Shed more salary: The Blackhawks are currently $2,216,795 over the cap, according to capgeek.com. The Blackhawks can be 10 percent over the cap during the offseason. Bowman said they had some ideas how they could get under the cap, but he wouldn't disclose them Tuesday. Expect one or two more players to be traded for draft picks and/or prospects.

    3. Continue to attempt to sign Kevin Hayes: The Blackhawks have until Aug. 15 to sign Hayes, their 2010 first-round pick. He's been eligible to sign since his college season ended in April. At this point, it's unlikely he'll sign. He wants to have the opportunity to play in the NHL immediately, and that's not possible with the Blackhawks now. They're too deep in the NHL, and there are a few AHL players who they could argue deserve more of an NHL chance than Hayes right now. If the Blackhawks don't sign him or trade his rights, they will get a compensatory second-round pick in the 2015 draft. Many believe Hayes will eventually sign with the Calgary Flames and join his former Boston College teammates Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold.

    Hawks need goalie depth in free agency

    July, 1, 2014
    Jul 1
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    Offseason trade and free-agent rumors surrounding second-line centers are certainly more interesting than second-tier goaltenders, but acquiring the latter could also be important to the Chicago Blackhawks come next season.

    [+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
    Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Hawks are set with Corey Crawford as their No. 1 goalie and Antti Raanta as his backup, but beyond them there isn't much depth in their system.
    The Blackhawks have their No. 1 goaltender in place in Corey Crawford and now their No. 2 after recently re-signing Antti Raanta. Beyond that, the organization is bare of NHL-ready goaltenders. Kent Simpson is the only other signed goaltender who has NHL experience, and he's played a total of 20 minutes.

    The Blackhawks are hopeful they won't need anyone beside Crawford and Raanta next season, but that's unlikely. Only three teams -- the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks -- got away with playing just two goaltenders all of last season. The Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers each threw five different goaltenders in net during the regular season.

    The Blackhawks have dealt with the reality of injuries at that position in the past two seasons. Nikolai Khabibulin played a total of four games last season before he was sidelined for the rest of the season. Crawford has missed games in each of the last two seasons due to injury. Henrik Karlsson was Crawford's backup in the first round of the playoffs in 2013 because Ray Emery was hurt.

    Because the Blackhawks have their top-2 goaltenders set and likely will be tight with the cap, they're going to need to find someone who they can sign cheap on a two-way deal during free agency, which begins on Tuesday. That eliminates the likes of veterans Martin Brodeur and Tim Thomas. They're more likely to pursue goalies such as Mike McKenna, Drew MacIntyre, Joey MacDonald, Cedrick Desjardins and Yann Danis.

    The Blackhawks were in an adequate spot with goaltenders in 2013. They had Karlsson and Carter Hutton on the depth chart after Crawford and Emery. But Hutton left the Blackhawks and started 35 games for the Nashville Predators this past season. Karlsson went overseas to play.

    Khabibulin's season-ending injury this past season forced the Blackhawks to trade for Jason LaBarbera, who had some NHL experience and could be used in an emergency situation. LaBarbera is another option for the Blackhawks next season. He had a 2.94 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 32 games for the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

    The Blackhawks would ideally have a prospect ready to make the NHL jump if needed, but their system doesn't have that player right now. The 22-year-old Simpson, a second-round pick in 2010, has been in the minors for the past two seasons and still needs time to develop. He had a 3.64 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in 31 games for the IceHogs last season. Mac Carruth, a seventh-round pick in 2010, spent most of last season in the ECHL.

    "I thought Kent learned a lot of things this year," Blackhawks director of hockey administration and general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard said recently. "We weren't always the best defensively in front of him. That's not easy on a goaltender. I think he really learned when Jason LaBarbera came in. That was kind of a protégé system. Kent's learning. He's getting better. I don't think he's at his ceiling.

    "Kent played his first year in Toledo, and Mac did it this year. It's a grind the first year. We're not looking at [Carruth's] numbers, but if he's giving his team a chance to win a nightly basis."

    The only other goaltenders in the Blackhawks' system are Matt Tomkins, a seventh-round pick in 2012, who will be a sophomore at Ohio State next season, and Ivan Nalimov, who they selected in the sixth round on Saturday. The Blackhawks opted this year not to sign Brandon Whitney, a seventh-round pick in 2012, who played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season.

    The Blackhawks haven't had much luck drafting goaltenders in the past decade. Crawford and Simpson are the only Blackhawks' draft picks to appear in an NHL game since Crawford was drafted in 2003. The Blackhawks have drafted 11 goaltenders since 2003.

    Blackhawks assistant general manager Norm Maciver talked earlier this year about the difficulty of drafting and developing goaltenders.

    "We're certainly trying to develop goaltenders," Maciver said in March. "To draft a kid at 18, it's a very difficult position. Look at Crawford, he had five full years in the American League. It's not something that happens overnight. It's very difficult to draft goaltenders and hope for them to develop in 1-2 years. Most goaltenders in the NHL are past 25 years old. You have to be patient. Hopefully one of these guys becomes a good goaltender for us in the near future."

    For now, the Blackhawks likely will have to find another one somewhere outside the organization.

    Hawks player reviews: Antti Raanta

    June, 13, 2014
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    Antti RaantaDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, had a 2.77 goals-against average in 25 games this season.

    Antti Raanta, Goaltender


    2013-14 cap hit: $925,000 | Age: 25 | Season stats: 13-5-4, 2.71 GAA, .897 save percentage

    Season recap: The Blackhawks brought along Raanta quicker than they planned because of injuries. After coming over from Finland, he was called up from the AHL after Nikolai Khabibulin was injured in November and became the No. 1 goaltender shortly after because of an injury to Corey Crawford. Raanta was inconsistent throughout the season, but he showed potential.

    Season highlight: Raanta recorded his first NHL shutout when he stopped 26 shots in a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 30.

    Season lowlight: Raanta allowed four goals on 15 shots and was pulled in the second period against the Calgary Flames on Jan. 28.

    Final grade: C+

    Inside the numbers: Raanta gave up three or more goals just twice in his first 15 regular-season games. In his final 10 regular-season games, he allowed three or more goals seven times.

    Notes: Raanta was one of three goaltenders to be recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL this season. Kent Simpson and Jason LaBarbera were also called up.

    Quotes: "There were good games, a couple not so good games," Raanta said after the season. "It was like steady all the time, lots of good things happen. But the second half of the season there was too much ups and downs in the games and in the practice, so I think that was the main reason why I didn't get so much playing time in the last games. Of course, first year here and first year overseas out of the home country and like that, so there was lots of learning experiment. And I think after the summer, we'll see what happens in the summer time and we'll see where I'm going to be. It's going to be a fun summer to work hard and think about the future."

    What's next: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has expressed interest in re-signing Raanta, a restricted free agent. If he returns, the Blackhawks will want him to be more consistent in a backup role to Crawford next season.

    Bowman: No big roster changes coming

    June, 3, 2014
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    CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman hasn’t changed his mind about his core group.

    Bowman said Tuesday he doesn’t plan on making many changes to the Blackhawks’ roster in the offseason after his team lost in the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Kings this season and failed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

    “I don’t think we’re going to have wholesale changes. That certainly isn’t warranted at this point,” Bowman said. “Our team performed very well in most areas of the game. Ways to improve would be certain players are going to be looking growth from within. We’ve still got lot of young players that play big roles on our team, and I think you saw that this year.”

    Nineteen of the 26 players on the Blackhawks’ playoff roster are signed for next season. Bowman said he hoped to re-sign restricted free agents Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Antti Raanta. Unrestricted free agents Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus, Peter Regin and Nikolai Khabibulin are not expected to be re-signed. Prospect Teuvo Teravainen is also expected to be included in the Blackhawks’ mix next season.

    Bowman thought a few new players could be added before next season, but he expressed that the Blackhawks’ identity wasn’t going to be altered.

    “There will be some new faces coming next year,” Bowman said. “I think the most important thing for us is to maintain that same style of play. It’s been successful for us obviously the last few seasons. Looking forward, we’re not going to deviate because that’s what the core of our team does well. We’re going to try and accentuate that , whether it’s with bigger players or making a couple additions here or there. There are a lot of options.”

    Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was also confident the team’s current group could continue to compete for Stanley Cups. Seven current Blackhawks played key roles in their Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013, and 16 current players were significant contributors to just the 2013 title.

    “To be honest with you, I love our group,” Toews said. It’s a great group of guys and the guys that have been here for a while and will be here for another extended period of time, those are the guys that are the leaders in our room, the main reasons we’ve had so much success the last few years.

    “And I think we’ve just done such a great job with some of those other guys, especially young guys that have a lot of that potential to bring that similar character and same similar leadership to our team are learning a lot from going through series like we just did and even winning a championship last year.

    “Like I said, there’s so much potential with the group we have right now. Even the guys that have done it before, this feeling of losing -- even if you won two Stanley Cups already -- to feel this is something completely different and you learn from it and grow from it, so I think as a group we’re all going to do that. I think there’s a long ways for us to grow and get better.”

    Raanta staying ready for Blackhawks

    May, 20, 2014
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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.

    Raanta
    "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."

    Rapid Reaction: Capitals 4, Blackhawks 0

    April, 11, 2014
    Apr 11
    8:58
    PM CT
    By Benjamin Standig
    Special to ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    WASHINGTON -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Friday.

    How it happened: The Blackhawks fell behind 2:04 into the game. They fell further behind six minutes later. Their four-game winning streak would eventually fall as well. Things rarely got better on one of "those kinds of nights." Of course, the big-picture explanation cannot be ignored: Chicago played its first game since becoming locked into the third seed. Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin scored the opening goal -- his NHL-leading 51st of the season -- on the game's first power play. Jay Beagle scored twice, doubling his total for the season. Nicklas Backstrom's goal went in off Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford's back 79 seconds into the second period. Crawford made 16 saves during the first two periods before giving way to Antti Raanta for the third. Jaroslav Halak stopped 34 shots for the Capitals.

    What it means: Beyond the lack of playoff chase motivation, the Blackhawks continued playing without injured forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Duncan Keith and Peter Regin were among the scratches as coach Joel Quenneville rested some players for the upcoming postseason.

    Player of the game: Raanta brushed aside all seven shots he faced in the third period.

    Stat of the game: The Blackhawks played their first regular-season game in Washington since March 3, 2011.

    What's next: The Blackhawks close the regular season Saturday in Nashville against the Predators. Chicago trails 3-1 in the season series.

    Hawks find way to win again

    April, 4, 2014
    Apr 4
    10:18
    PM CT
    Powers By Scott Powers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ben Smith wasn't completely sure minutes after the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets whether he or Peter Regin was responsible for the winning goal with 3.9 seconds left in the third period.

    Ultimately, Smith didn't really care. All that mattered was the Blackhawks won again.

    [+] EnlargeChicago Blackhawks
    AP Photo/Jay LaPretePeter Regin, right, celebrates with teammate Ben Smith after the Hawks took the lead over the Jackets with 3.9 seconds left in regulation.
    Playing without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for a second consecutive night, the Blackhawks found a way to win for a second consecutive night. The Blackhawks weren't always picture perfect, just as they weren't against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but Chicago overcame two deficits, picked up its play as Friday’s game went along and ultimately snatched a regulation win in dramatic fashion.

    "It's always nice to win games," Smith said. "We miss those guys big time, it's pretty clear, but guys are stepping up, guys are playing hard and we're playing, for the most part, a simple game, and that's helping us keep games close and pulling through in the end.

    "Our goal is to be playing our best hockey as we move into the playoffs, so every win is big, every point is big. Four games left now, we're excited for this week here, this push, and hopefully playing our best hockey going into the playoffs."

    The victory kept the Blackhawks mathematically alive for second place in the Central. The Colorado Avalanche lead the Blackhawks by one point and have two games in hand. The Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, who lead the Central, play Saturday.

    Two games ago, the Blackhawks were a team headed in the wrong direction. They had dropped three consecutive regulation games for the first time all season and lost Kane and Toews to injuries that will keep them out of the remainder of the regular season.

    (Read full post)

    Rapid Reaction: Hawks 4, Jackets 3

    April, 4, 2014
    Apr 4
    8:42
    PM CT
    Powers By Scott Powers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Nationwide Arena on Friday.

    How it happened: Blackhawks forward Ben Smith scored the winning goal with 3.9 seconds left in the third period. The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets exchanged goals for the first two periods. Derek MacKenzie put the Blue Jackets ahead first with a rebound goal at 1:32 of the first period. Jeremy Morin answered for the Blackhawks in the same period. The Blue Jackets went back ahead with a Ryan Johansen goal, but Patrick Sharp evened the game with a power-play goal. Marian Hossa gave the Blackhawks their first lead by scoring at 10:42 of the second period, but it wouldn't stand, as Artem Anisimov tied the score again later in the period for the Blue Jackets. Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 24 of 27 shots. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergie Bobrovsky made 34 saves.

    What it means: The Blackhawks extended their winning streak over the Blue Jackets to 13 games. The Blackhawks last lost to them in 2011. The Blackhawks improved to 44-19-5 with 103 points on the season. They're on a two-game winning streak. The Colorado Avalanche remained in second place in the Central. The Avalanche have 104 points and have two games in hand. They were idle on Friday.

    Player of the game: Smith scored for the second consecutive day.

    Stat of the game: The Blackhawks outshot the Blue Jackets 30-14 on goal over the last two periods.

    What's next: The Blackhawks return home to play the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. The Blackhawks are 1-1-2 against the Blues this season.

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    TEAM LEADERS

    POINTS
    Patrick Sharp
    PTS GOALS AST +/-
    6 2 4 -1
    OTHER LEADERS
    GoalsP. Kane 3
    AssistsB. Saad 5
    +/-J. Oduya 3
    GAAA. Raanta 1.52