Hurricanes’ Antti Raanta uses lessons from Henrik Lundqvist

As Brendan Smith sat on the podium and faced a question about Carolina backup goaltender Antti Raanta after the Hurricanes defeated the Rangers in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, his thoughts turned to Henrik Lundqvist.

Smith, who joined Rangers in the 2016-17 season, was not in New York at the height of Lundqvist. But the Carolina defender, who scored the opening goal in the Hurricanes’ 2-0 win on Friday night, recalls the competitive instinct that made Lundqvist great.

“He never wanted to be scored, not even in practice, and he’d be upset if you did,” Smith said. “And maybe that will wear off [Raanta]play with him.”

To understand what Raanta, who backed Lundqvist for two seasons with Rangers, did for Carolina, one must first understand what the Hurricanes lost when starting goaltender Frederik Andersen was lost to a lower body injury. In 52 games during the regular season, Andersen had a .922 save percentage on an average of 2.17 goals against goals against.

“He was one of the best goalies in the league that year,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour.

Antti Raanta makes a save for the Hurricanes' Game 2 win over Rangers.
Antti Raanta makes a save for the Hurricanes’ Game 2 win over Rangers.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Raanta has had good numbers as Andersen’s backup this season, as he has for most of his career. But he’s a career backup – albeit one who has kept Rangers scoreless for the last 116-05 of that series.

It’s not quite what Lundqvist did when Raanta backed him. Rangers had just 21 shots in the net on Friday without many Grade A chances. Most of the credit rightly goes to Carolina’s defense, which kept the Rangers top six utterly disgruntled with their goalie throughout the night.

But the lessons Raanta learned from Lundqvist are paying off.

“Obviously, when I was in New York, what Hank was doing there was eye-opening,” Raanta said. “He was probably his seventh or eighth year in the league in 2015. Every year he was one of the best goalkeepers. I thought, ‘That’s why he’s the best goalkeeper.’ He was always working, he was always trying to get better.

“Apparently [Benoit Allaire] in New York is one of the best in the league as a goalkeeping coach and as a person. It was a lot of fun working with him and getting to know Hank like that. Now you see [Igor] Shesterkin, he fights to the end, he moves amazingly and he makes the saves he needs to make. Sometimes he does these huge highlight reel saves. It’s obviously probably something that’s coming out of New York.”

Raanta is not in a class with either of these names. But in two games of that series, he has two wins and Shesterkin, the presumptive Vezina Trophy winner, has zero. Raanta didn’t dig into it after Game 2, but he said having Shesterkin across from him helps improve his game. He left it to his teammates to marvel at the story.

“I just think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s done, don’t you?” asked Smith. “I think coming in and taking the moment and stepping in and playing as it is, it’s phenomenal.” Hurricanes’ Antti Raanta uses lessons from Henrik Lundqvist


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