Blackhawks’ backup goaltender, Antti Raanta, answered the call on Tuesday night, when asked to sub for a sick Corey Crawford, and pitched a 4-0 shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center. The Finnish goaltender was starting his first game of the season and saved all 32 shots he faced.
Raanta also received help from the Blackhawks’ forwards, who dominated not only the first period, but the entire game. The Blackhawks had three tallies in the first period alone en route to a 4-0 victory.
The first goal was the result of an excellent team effort. The Blackhawks simply outworked the Flyers and forced a loose puck into the back of the net. 21-year-old forward Brandon Saad was ultimately credited with the goal, his first of the season, with assists going to veteran Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell (1 goal, 1 assist).
The second goal of the game, and the first period, came at the 12:26 mark, when Patrick Kane capitalized on a Blackhawks’ power play. A shot by Patrick Sharp, who plays the point position on the power play, missed the net and deflected off the end boards. Kane smartly anticipated the bounce and buried the loose puck into the net.
The flurry of activity from the Hawks in the first period forced the Flyers to call timeout and circle the wagons. At this point in the game, the Flyers were being outshot by a margin of 14 to 1.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the Blackhawks simply refused to take their foot off the gas and scored again less than two minutes later. This time power forward Bryan Bickell took a nice cross-ice pass from Saad and roofed a shot past Steve Mason’s (39 saves on 43 shots) blocker.
The two teams entered the locker rooms during the first intermission with the score 3-0 in favor of the Blackhawks and the momentum also clearly on the home team’s side.
The second period was scoreless with Raanta providing almost all of the highlights. He made save after save, some coming from point blank range. Also noteworthy, was the effort put forth by players such as Kris Versteeg and Ben Smith. Both players displayed chemistry with their linemates and were solid overall.
The third period mostly deteriorated into a frustrated Flyers team trying to rough up the Blackhawks. However, the Blackhawks matched the Flyers physicality check for check, and also got a goal from their star playmaker, Patrick Kane, early in the period to make it a 4-0 game. The goal was Kaner’s second of the game and third of the season. The game ended with a 4-0 score when the final horn sounded.
Not surprisingly, Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta earned first star of the game honors for recording his second career shutout. Raanta celebrated by skating to the center ice circle and displaying some of his Finnish dance moves.
When asked to explain why he did such a thing by the Comcast Sports Net crew he replied simply, “We have a great crowd, so why not?”
The Blackhawks (4-0-1) will face the Nashville Predators (4-0-2), their central division rivals, tonight (Thursday, October 23rd) in Nashville, Tennessee. The Blackhawks took the first game in the season series; however, the Predators lead the central division with ten points to the Blackhawks’ nine. The game will be broadcast locally on Comcast Sports Net. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT.