Well here is an interesting development for the New York Rangers.
When the team takes on the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night it will once again be Antti Raanta in net, meaning that long-time starter Henrik Lundqvist will remain on the bench for a third consecutive game.
Raanta started both ends of a back-to-back situation on Thursday and Friday against Winnipeg and Chicago and allowed just a single goal in those two games, stopping 43 of the 44 shots he faced. That included a 26-save shutout against the Blackhawks on Friday night.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said on Sunday morning following the team’s morning skate that Raanta deserves to play tonight’s game, and that it’s all about the team and winning tonight’s game when asked about what effect this decision might have on Lundqvist.
There is no denying that Raanta played extremely well in his past two starts, and there is something to be said for riding the hot hand in net. But this is still a bit of a surprising decision by Vigneault and the Rangers. Not only is it going to be three starts in four nights for Raanta, but anytime a healthy Henrik Lundqvist sits behind anybody for three consecutive games it is going to be a bit of a shock.
Lundqvist’s numbers are down a bit this season (his .912 save percentage would be his lowest since 2007-08, when he was in his third year in the league) and his performance has been a little up and down over the past few weeks, but he is still one of the best goalies in the league. Eventually he is going to reclaim his job, but for right now the Rangers seem willing to try and get everything they can out of Raanta’s recent hot streak.
The Rangers enter play on Sunday tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins with 39 points (19-9-1).