An early-season injury to Antti Raanta factored heavily into the Arizona Coyotes going through the first month of 2017-18 without a single win. Such a thought must be on the minds of some Coyotes fans and players on Wednesday, as it looks like the talented goalie has been placed on IR.
Now, a trip to injured reserve doesn’t always mean that a player will miss a lot of time. Rick Tocchet and others seem to label Raanta as day-to-day; while that term can be nebulous, it sure beats week-to-week.
Without knowing for sure how much time Raanta will miss, it still frustratingly fits into a puzzle of “one step forward, two step backwards” (or at least walking in place) for the Coyotes.
(The Athletic’s Craig Morgan reports that Raanta tweaked something during a recent practice.)
While Arizona’s record is a middling 7-6-0, they had really been picking up steam, as Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers ended a five-game winning streak.
Raanta was strong when he was able to play during his first season with the Coyotes (a sparkling .930 save percentage), making it that much more frustrating that he was limited to 47 games. The 29-year-old’s individual play has exceeded his 5-4-0 record so far in 2018-19, as he’s sporting a nearly identical .929 save percentage through nine contests.
Early on as a No. 1 starter, it sure looks like Raanta possesses the skill to be a top guy. That said, as Andrei Vasilevskiy can attest, it’s not easy to handle the workload of a workhorse goalie, and the jury is currently out on Raanta pulling that off.
On the bright side, the Coyotes could be in a decent spot if Raanta does miss some time. Darcy Kuemper‘s off to a hot start so far, generating an even-better .936 save percentage over four games. Kuemper’s coming off an up (while with the Kings) and down (once being traded to Arizona) 2017-18 campaign, which ultimately looked pretty good considering his .920 save percentage in 29 games.
Kuemper could present a safety net in net, then, although the Coyotes’ sometimes-anemic scoring (impressive lately, but ice-cold to start the season) means that there might not be much of a margin for error.
As Tocchet said, here’s hoping this is just a minor hiccup for a Coyotes team that’s eager to finally be competitive again, and the goalie who’s the most important piece in doing exactly that.
For their next game, the Coyotes will meet with the Flyers again, this time in Philly on Thursday.