Raanta or Darling? Tough decision looms for Blackhawks
Take a look at the numbers and it's hard to pick a winner in the competition between Scott Darling and Antti Raanta to serve as back up to goalie Corey Crawford.
After Sunday's 2-1 win over Calgary, Raanta -- the incumbent -- is 4-2 with a .944 save percentage and a 1.85 goals-against average.
Darling -- the challenger -- has put together a 5-2 record with a .937 save percentage and an 1.87 GAA.
"I think it's healthy; competition's not a bad thing," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the battle. "They want to play. They take advantage of the opportunity when they get in there.
"They've done exactly what you're hoping they would do."
Now it's up to Quenneville and Co. to figure out who stays and who goes.
With Crawford expected to return to action this weekend, whomever Quenneville tabs as the starter tonight against Minnesota might serve as a big tell.
Prior to Sunday's game against Calgary, Darling had started four straight (3-1) and seemed to have the inside track as Quenneville continued to show faith in him.
But a loss Saturday in New York and Raanta stopping 23 of 24 shots in the win over the Flames the following night, a performance Quenneville called "excellent," may just have evened up the score.
Either way, after some intense weeks for the two 25-year-old teammates, decision time is near.
"Me and Scotty are the same kind of guys; we just try to do our best," Raanta said after Sunday's game. "If you start thinking too much about stuff like, "If Scotty plays a great game ..."
"You have to still be a good teammate. You can't do anything stupid. You'll only hurt yourself. Just come here every morning even though sometimes you can feel a little frustrated and sad about the situation."
"It's just hockey, so just come here with a smile on your face and enjoy every moment."
Newly-acquired defenseman Tim Erixon got almost 11 minutes of ice time and some kudos from his teammates in his Blackhawks debut.
"For a new guy who didn't even practice, he played a really good game," Antti Raanta said. "That's a great thing for us that we got Timmy."
Erixon is now the fourth Swedish defenseman on the Hawks roster.
"We've had some success with all of them," Joel Quenneville said. "First and foremost we like how they defend.
"Good hockey instincts usually with the Swedish guys."