Rookie goalie Antti Raanta is off to a hot start in Rockford.
The Chicago Blackhawks signed Finnish goalie Antti Raanta as a potential backup to Corey Crawford in the future. If his recent play is any indication, the future may be bright for the 24-year-old.
Anchoring Chicago's AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, Raanta has been in net for all three of his team's wins this past week. In home wins Saturday and Sunday, Raanta turned away 75 of 78 shots and was the first star of both contests.
After a 5-4 overtime loss to Hamilton Tuesday, Rockford fell behind 2-0 in Toronto Wednesday. Raanta held the Marlies at bay in the last 30 minutes of the game, allowing the IceHogs to prevail, 3-2.
Saturday against Charlotte, Raanta made 29 stops in a nip-and-tuck affair that ended when Raanta stopped four of the five skaters he saw in a 2-1 shootout win. The next afternoon, Raanta and the IceHogs fell behind 2-0 in the first five minutes to the Texas Stars.
It looked like a blowout was brewing, but Raanta and the Hogs dug in and ground out a 4-2 victory. Raanta faced 48 shots on the afternoon, stopping 46 of them.
In seven games this season, Raanta has compiled a 5-1 record, a 2.40 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. His joyful interaction with the BMO Center crowd after this weekend's home wins is quickly endearing him to the fans as well.
Raanta was injured early in Rockford's opening game and missed the rest of the first weekend of games. Since then, he has shown no lasting effects from the puck he took off the inside of his knee. It's still early, but Raanta seems to be making a smooth transition to the North American game.
Hogs On Top Of The AHL West
The IceHogs find themselves in unfamiliar territory. An IceHogs squad rife with prospects has started well, to the tune of a 7-2-1 record to begin their season.
On the strength of three consecutive come-from-behind victories this past week, Rockford sits atop the AHL's Western Conference. The IceHogs' 15 points equals Manchester for the most points in the entire league.
Rockford sent two key players, Jeremy Morin and Brad Mills, up to Chicago Friday. The IceHogs did not miss a beat, sweeping a weekend homestand and taking seven out of a possible eight points in their four games this past week.
Broadhurst Brothers Making Some Noise
Two players who are picking up the scoring slack are Terry and Alex Broadhurst, who both have goals in Rockford's three-game win streak. The Orland Park, Ill. natives had themselves a nice week.
In Toronto, the brothers each scored in the second period to help the IceHogs tie the game before Morin hit the game-winner in the third. Alex stole a pass in the Texas zone midway through the final period and scored to tie Sunday's game.
Mark McNeill (5G, 3A) banged home the eventual game-winner a few minutes later to add to the list of youngsters making a difference in Rockford's recent good fortune.
Svedberg May Miss Some Action
Viktor Svedberg left Sunday's game in the first period, the apparent victim of a slash that was not called on the ice. He did not return to action.
The 6'8" defenseman has two shootout goals in as many attempts for Rockford. Svedberg, who recently signed a deal with the Blackhawks, has a goal and an assist so far in 2013-14 but could be out of the lineup for a stretch.
A Return For Kyle Beach?
The player many thought had seen his last day at the BMO Center is back with the team after his tryout in the Swedish Hockey League failed to draw a contract offer.
Beach played in seven games for HV71, playing an average of 12:57 a game. He had two goals and an assist and was a minus-four. He did manage to lead his team with 35 penalty minutes.
Beach did not appear this weekend with the IceHogs, though he is on the team roster. It remains to be seen how the former first-round pick figures into the plans of Chicago or Rockford.