Alain Vigneault said it was “simple,” and maybe it actually was for the coach to reach the decision to go with Antti Raanta for a fourth straight time for Tuesday’s match at the Garden at the Garden against the Blackhawks.
“Antti is playing real well and deserves to play,” Vigneault said following the morning skate. “It’s as simple as that.”
But probably not all that simple to bypass Henrik Lundqvist that many consecutive times for the first time in the King’s 12-year NHL career, even with Raanta working on consecutive shutouts, a scoreless streak of 151:04 and three straight victories in which he has surrendered one goal on 63 shots.
For though the objective going into the season was to limit Lundqvist’s workload to between 55-and-60 starts, this was most certainly not in the plan.
In that sense, this is not tantamount to the situation in the Emile Francis Era, when Eddie Giacomin started sharing time with Gilles Villemure beginning in 1970-71, averaging 44 starts for three years after averaging 68 starts the four previous seasons.
“There’s always a big picture, and I’ve talked many times about how I’d like our goaltenders to play a certain amount of games,” Vigneault said. “But there comes a time in a season where one guy is playing really well and he plays.”
But never since Lundqvist came to New York from Sweden for training camp in 2005 has that been the other guy. First time for everything.
“You think about your game, you step back and analyze a little bit, but not too much,” said Lundqvist, who has not yet quite gotten into his customary groove while starting 20 of the first 27 matches. “Antti is playing really well and the team is winning. Our job is to help the team win.
“I’m a very competitive person and I want to play, but I understand we all have to do what’s best for the team.”