Antti Raanta (via NHL)
Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta went into a full split and used only his toe to deny Sabres center Johan Larsson Tuesday night. Raanta’s 34 saves helped him pick up the win over Buffalo, and he has now won four of his past five starts.
The New York Rangers have been without star netminder Henrik Lundqvist for the past three games, but if you didn’t know any better you would have thought the ‘King’ himself, not Antti Raanta, was manning the net Tuesday night when the Blueshirts took on Buffalo.
Raanta, 26, was tested early and often by the Sabres, and he made a number of big stops in order to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 victory. No save, however, was more impressive than one the Finnish netminder made less than six minutes into the contest.
The play started when the Sabres’ Marcus Foligno fired a shot on goal that was stopped by a cluster of players in front of Raanta, but the puck took a perfect Buffalo bounce and squirted out to the right of the New York net. The Sabres’ Johan Larsson was right on the doorstep in a battle with the Rangers’ Dominic Moore, but Larsson was able to get body position and fire the puck towards the goal.
At the time of Larsson’s shot, the game was scoreless, and it stayed that way only because Raanta was somehow able contort his body to make a split-legged toe save:
This is the second consecutive season Raanta has had to take over as a starter for an injured backup, as he dealt with the same situation in 2014-15 with the Chicago Blackhawks. And while some Rangers fans may have been worried about Raanta’s play after the way his season began, he’s played pretty well over his past five starts.
Since Feb. 18, Raanta has started five games and has allowed 12 goals over that time on 165 shots, good for a .927 save percentage. If it weren’t for Raanta’s last outing in which he allowed five goals on 31 shots, his SP would look even better, too.
Raanta had a strong start to his season and stumbled in the middle of the year, but he’s found his form again. He’s picked up at least a point in five of his past six decisions. With no timeline for Lundqvist’s return, Raanta’s play is exactly what the Rangers needed out of their backup netminder.