By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, NC (AP) – Antti Raanta remains ready, even as he spends most of his time supporting one of the NHL’s top goalies. He is now critical for the Carolina Hurricanes as they advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Forced into office with No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen injured, Raanta was the defensive anchor for the Hurricanes ’first round series with the Boston Bruins. He was once again strong in the net for grabbing a Game 7 win on Saturday, another sign that the Hurricanes ’offseason bet on a position overhaul has paid off.
“When Freddy was hurt, it was like,‘ OK, now it’s a time for me to show what I can do in the big stages, ’” Raanta said after the 3-2 win. “Starting in Game 1, I think my game was good.”
Raanta got three of four wins in the series – he came out early in Game 2 after being hit in the head – while allowing four goals in those games. He allowed two goals in 70 shots in Game 1 and 5 wins (.971 save percentage) then finished with 27 saves in the clinsing win.
Not bad for a 33-year-old veteran who hasn’t started a playoff game before this series and has struggled with injuries in recent years. Raanta was like Carolina’s go-to guy on the net entering the second round of the series against the Pittsburgh-New York Rangers winner.
“When we started this season, Freddy was unbelievable right away and I kind of struggled my way back into the game,” Raanta said. “There were some ups and downs early in the season. I think since the All-Star break, it’s starting to feel like I’m also contributing there. I think men are starting to trust me too. I have shown that I can do the job too. ”
The Hurricanes signed Andersen and Raanta last summer. But the nightly task isn’t the plan because Andersen leads and is one of the leaders in the league with 35 regular-season wins, a 2.17 goals-against average and a savings percentage. at .922.
However, Raanta is the reliable No. 2 options, with the duo winning the William M. Jennings Trophy awarded to netminders on a team that allows the league’s fewest goals in a minimum of 25 work games.
But his job description changed on April 16, when Andersen fell to a Colorado loss with a lower body injury. Raanta should take the leading role with rookie Pyotr Kochetkov as a backup option for a team heading into the Metropolitan Division title.
Carolina needs someone ready right now. It was as if Raanta was there.
“If one of the best goalies in the league falls for an injury, it’s obviously going to hurt a little bit,” Raanta said. “Like we played all year, the team in front of me did a really good job. I’m just trying to do my job and help the guys get the win. ”
While Carolina’s aggressive scrutiny can lighten the load on her, Raanta also manages to save keys when needed, too.
His biggest stop on Saturday came early with a full split save to deny Taylor Hall near the left post a 2-on-1 chance in the first period of the scoreless game. . It was a time when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy returned almost immediately to his postgame news conference.
“Raanta’s rescue was very timely,” Cassidy said. “If we bury that 2-on-1, things can change in a game like today if it’s hard to score.”
Andersen’s condition remains unclear going forward. Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour offered some details about Andersen’s recovery further saying he is working hard to get back and needs to practice with the team to prepare for the return.
Raanta shows the Hurricanes that they don’t have to force anything. And he has a thank you for this opportunity in a challenging year, especially after losing his father in the offseason.
That was clear at Saturday’s postgame news conference, when his daughter Evelyn stopped giving her father a tight hug. She helped him sit on his lap and share the experience.
“No one in the beginning expected him to be the guy and then come in most of the time and be the guy,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m proud of him and I’m happy for him because he’s been through a lot.”
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