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In Goalies They Trust: Coyotes' Tandem Breeds Confidence

Coyotes counting on deep goaltending for a lengthy playoff run

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have at least two major reasons for playoff optimism.

Their names are Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta.

"I think the key for us is certainly goaltending," said President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka. "It's just a big part of our team."

The Coyotes were No. 3 in the NHL this season in team goals-against average (2.61). Kuemper and Raanta were a big reason why.

And their success is nothing new.

Since 2017-18, Kuemper and Raanta are No. 1 and No. 2 in save percentage (.924) among goalies who have played at least 30 games, as recently noted by Arizona Sports.

"Darcy and Antti, in my opinion, are the top tandem," said Chayka. "Those guys, you hope they stay healthy, and they make the impact that we expect them to make, and then we'll deal with injuries as they come."

Both goalies arrived healthy to camp.

"The layoff here, the four months, both goalies had a couple of minor injuries, but they're both healthy," said head coach Rick Tocchet. "When you have your two goalies at 100 percent, (especially) our goalies, that's a big strength of our hockey club."

Jakob Chychrun echoed Chayka and Tocchet's sentiments.

"We have so much confidence in both those guys," Chychrun said. "We believe we have the best goalie tandem in the NHL. So, whoever's in there for us, we're going to have 100 percent confidence in. We're going to roll with it."

Kuemper ranked No. 3 in the league this year with a 2.22 goals-against average. Both he (.928) and Raanta (.921) finished Top 10 in save percentage.

Asked about the team having two solid options in net, Kuemper kept it simple. 

"I mean, we're both really good goalies," he said. "Camp is just about doing everything you have to do to be ready for Game 1. We're just going out there and working hard, getting ready to play."

As the current No. 2, Raanta's focus is on readiness. 

"I'm just doing whatever I need to do to be ready," he said. "Whoever gets the nod in net, either me or Kuemps, we're going to be ready to play. That's the thing, we have two goalies who are ready to jump in. So, I'm just trying to get myself ready for that."

Both goalies have participated in the two intrasquad scrimmages, and have faced a heavy barrage of shots during the first week of camp.

"They've been getting a lot of work in, and they look really good," Tocchet said. "They're healthy. They've been seeing a lot of rubber. I want to keep those guys fresh, keep their groins healthy and their bodies healthy, that's one thing."

Kuemper and Raanta are expected to split time when the Coyotes play the Vegas Golden Knights in a July 30 exhibition.

"The pace has been heavy and there's been a lot of shots, but they've withstood it," Tocchet said. "We're going to have to map out their intensity through these next two weeks because obviously those two guys are key to our team."

Tocchet believed two goalies are needed for a lengthy playoff run. Two options are critical because of the condensed postseason. The qualifying series against the Predators includes one back-to-back. 

"Especially now, you need two excellent goalies," Tocchet said. "We have that. But especially with what's been going on, the way the format is, and what's been thrown at us. If you're going to go all the way, you're going to need two goalies, and they're both going to play, I think.

"I'm not sure you can just run (one) goalie all the way through and win a Stanley Cup."

Kuemper has been considered the Coyotes' top option since the second half of 2018-19, but missed two months after suffering a lower-body injury in December. Raanta battled injuries too, but was solid when healthy. 

"When (Raanta's) number is called upon, we know there's not going to be a drop-off," Tocchet said. "That's big. We always talk about that one-two punch. Both (goalies) are well-loved in the room. I always felt the goalies, that when you're well-loved, guys are willing to block more shots. Those two guys are really good guys. You always hear them after games -- they might stop 45 shots, and we lose, and they're always blaming themselves instead of their teammates. That's the character of those two goalies."

Lead Photo Credit: Kevin Abele - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Kevin Abele - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images // Third Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Fourth Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes

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