3 keys to the first game after Christmas for the Hurricanes against the Habs

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Jordan Martinook #48, Derek Stepan #18 and goaltender Frederik Andersen #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate their victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 21, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Jordan Martinook #48, Derek Stepan #18 and goaltender Frederik Andersen #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate their victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 21, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 16: Antti Raanta #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes takes a break during a stop in play in the second period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on November 16, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Hurricanes defeated the Golden Knights 4-2. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 16: Antti Raanta #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes takes a break during a stop in play in the second period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on November 16, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Hurricanes defeated the Golden Knights 4-2. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Upping the Antti in a big way

I mentioned earlier that there are 3 Carolina Hurricanes remaining on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. One of them is the Canes starter and early season Vezina candidate Frederik Andersen. In the absence of their Danish number 1, the Canes will likely find themselves turning to Finnish shot-stopper Antti Raanta. It’s another chance for Raanta to show he deserves more time in between the pipes as he hasn’t played since the Western Canada road trip.

Now, this is by no means meant to disrespect Raanta. We’ve all seen he is a very capable netminder and he can make saves when the team needs him to. However, he’s not been as good as one of the early Vezina favorites in Andersen, which is admittedly a high bar. Raanta is going to be asked to play at the same high-level Freddie has been playing at all year, and it’s up to Raanta to prove it.

With the Carolina Hurricanes being reliant on their goaltender in previous games against teams that they should beat, this could be a game that is tighter than the Canes fans will like. Raanta will likely be needed to make timely big saves at key moments to keep his team in the game and keep the puck out of his net to allow the free-flowing Canes, attackers, all the time they need to break through this Montreal team.

This should be a fun game, and it’s one we’ve been waiting for as a fan base since the holiday break. Carolina plays against the Canadiens at PNC Arena for this 7 PM EST puck drop and the final game of the calendar year. A chance to end it out on top of the division as the team has been so often during their 365 days this year.