After two strong starts on back to back nights by New York Rangers backup Antti Raanta, some people believe that Henrik Lundqvist is loosing the reigns on his starting job. They couldn’t be any more wrong.
When New York Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault decided to start goalie Antti Raanta on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, it made a lot of sense. The Rangers were about to play back to back games against the Jets and Chicago Blackhawks respectively, so playing their backup against the weaker of the two teams is the logical move.
On Friday morning at the Rangers optional pregame skate, Raanta wasn’t on the ice like he usually is on game day mornings with the other players who would be scratched. Henrik Lundqvist was.
When this was announced on New York Rangers’ Twitter, it seemed like the sky was falling.
Henrik Lundqvist had not been a healthy scratch in back to back games since 2013 when everybody was wondering if Cam Talbot would take over as the starting goalie.
“At this time Antti is just a bit better now,” said Alain Vigneault in his morning presser on Friday.
Raanta proved his coach right, as he was obviously highly motivated, playing against his former team in his former home building–a building where he had never lost in before. Raanta made some monumental saves on the Blackhawks throughout the game and led the Rangers to a 1-0 overtime victory, there first in the extra stages of the season.
But regardless, Henrik Lundqvist is still the number one goalie for the Rangers.
Lundqvist has been the guy 12 years now, and he will continue to be the guy for a long time. Yes, he has played poorly this season–not that his defense has helped him at all. Lundqvist’s stats are as bad as they have ever been, but with the exception of last season, he has never been a guy who gets off to fast starts.
There is no way the Rangers would give the goaltending reigns to a player who has been a career backup over a guy who has been their franchise cornerstone for over a decade.
And if you don’t believe me, then listen to what Vigneault had to say before the Blackhawks game.
“Everybody knows that Hank is the guy and he is our number one,” Vigneault said. “At this time Antti’s game is a little bit better than Hank and we need to win hockey games and Antti played real well last night and wasn’t real busy. This is a familiar spot for him and we felt that it was the right thing to do for the team.”
And he was right.
Raanta has been the better goaltender so far this year and seeing as how he shut out the Blackhawks on Friday night, he made the right call.
But Lundqvist will be better, and at the very least, this bit of extended rest could prove to be beneficial for him down the road this year. Plus, a little extra motivation can’t hurt him.