Julien: Khudobin 'deserves a lot of accolades' for first win of season

Julien: Khudobin 'deserves a lot of accolades' for first win of season

BOSTON -- It took nearly two months of hockey and seven tries, but the Bruins finally got a win from one of their backup goaltenders.

Anton Khudobin enjoyed his best game of the season while stopping 29 shots and holding things together for a Bruins team that finally broke through in the third period en route to a 2-1 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden. Needless to say the affable Khudobin was happy to finish in the winner’s circle for the first time this season.

“It always feels awesome. Whenever you get the W it’s always…nothing can be better,” said Khudobin, who improved to 1-3-0 on the season. “I just do my job and so, that’s pretty much it. I’m happy that we got the ‘W.’

It certainly didn’t look optimal for Khudobin or the Black and Gold after the Hurricanes took a slim 1-0 lead in the second period, and the Bruins looked like their offense was once again going to fall short.

Instead the Bruins scratched for a goal late in the third outshooting the Hurricanes by a 12-9 margin, and Khudobin was perfect turning away 11 shots in the third period and overtime with exactly zero margin for error. He stopped Jeff Skinner on a three-on-none breakaway in the second period ahead of Noah Hanifin’s goal for the Hurricanes, and then he stopped Skinner again in overtime on a breakaway with two points hanging in the balance.

That doesn’t even mention the shootout where Khudobin stood tall again while watching Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak score to ice the game for the Black and Gold.

“[He was] very good. [Khudobin] deserves a lot of accolades tonight, the way he played and the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track,” said Julien. “Tonight he showed that he was ready to play. He made some big plays for us, you know, solid in the shootout.

“You couldn’t ask more from him. There’s no doubt that there was a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we have two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

It’s a confidence that understandably wavered when the B’s backup goalies went a combined 0-6-0 to start the season with Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre all failed to lead the Black and Gold to a victory. That has changed now with the Bruins stealing a game from Carolina after sleepwalking through the first 40 minutes, and knowing that their goaltender was the biggest difference between winning and losing.

“He was awesome tonight. He was our number one star for sure. I think they had two or three breakaways that he shut the door on. I think they had a four-on- zero too. He shut the door on everything,” said Riley Nash. “I thought he was fantastic. I think that was his first win of the year too. So, it’s nice to get that monkey off his back and hopefully just get it rolling now.”

It wasn’t quite a Jimmy Hayes-sized monkey on Khudobin’s back to be sure, but nonetheless there is a renewed sense of confidence after a dominant, winning performance that conjures up memories of just how effective Rask and Khudobin were as a Bruins tandem just a few years ago. 

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.