BOSTON – Anton Khudobin has certainly experienced his share of struggles in his second stint with the Boston Bruins.
But he hasn’t lost his trademark sense of humor even if his performance to date hasn’t been up to snuff between the pipes.
“Let’s be funny and sarcastic,” said Khudobin, after a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. “Hopefully I’m going to get the third win sooner than the second [win].”
- Highlights: Boston Bruins 4, Vancouver Canucks 3
- Undefeated Cassidy 'not getting caught up' in filling Julien's shoes
- Bruins new-look third line stirs up offense in win vs. Canucks
- Cehlarik 'did a nice job' for Bruins in NHL debut
- Talking Points: At last, a win from Bruins backup
- Bruins edge Canucks 4-3 to improve to 2-0 under Cassidy
That’s because Khudobin improved his record to 2-5-1 on the season while making 29 saves in his first appearance with the Bruins since getting busted down to the AHL after his Dec. 23 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. It wasn’t perfect as he surrendered a goal to Alex Burrows with just 0.6 seconds to go in the second period and gave up three goals overall, but he also hung in there while the Bruins defense was allowing some pretty good scoring chances all around him.
All that mattered for Khudobin was making certain he allowed fewer goals than the Bruins scored to get the desired result, and making sure he got the job done in the first night of back-to-back games with Tuukka Rask earmarked for Sunday's big showdown with the Montreal Canadiens. As the first of six sets of back-to-back games to finish out the season, the Bruins are going to need Khudobin to start getting on a roll and playing like he did on Saturday afternoon.
“[Khudobin had a] very strong game. Certainly gave us a chance to win, we had a number of breakdowns in front of him that led to quality chances that he was there to make the save on,” said interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “So I’m very happy for him, he’s worked hard on his game. We scored a goal late for him to get the win. I think it’s a bit of a monkey off his back and hopefully he can build on it going forward.”
The numbers still aren’t anything to write home about for the 30-year-old Khudobin, and they might not be for the rest of the season given a .888 save percentage and 3.05 goals against average in nine appearances thus far. Those struggles forced Khudobin down to the AHL to get his game together, and forced Tuukka Rask (.882 save percentage last month) into a playing time burden that saw his numbers dive in January with such a heavy workload.
But at least the Bruins finally got a second win from their backup netminders in 18 appearances for Khudobin, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban this season, and they’ve at least temporarily quieted some of the fingers pointed at them as the biggest single thing afflicting the Black and Gold this season.
Something as simple as evening the 2-10-2 record for the backups this season would add eight points to Boston’s season ledger, and would actually pull them into a tie with the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division. That was apparent when Bruins President Cam Neely went on with Felger and Mazz earlier this week on 98.5 the Sports Hub, and repeatedly mentioned the backup goalies as one of the big reasons for the team’s underachievement this season.
Khudobin sounded like he had heard those words, and perhaps they even served as motivation in Saturday’s winning matinee vs. Vancouver.
“It’s always important. We have to get up in the standings too. That’s really important in back-to- backs, hopefully I get the monkey off my back. Like I said, [I’ve got to] keep going, kind of play whatever, back-to- back or whatever,” said Khudobin. “Just keep winning and maybe there wouldn’t be that much talk about the goalies not winning the games.
“Personally, I want to win the games. Losing sucks. That’s the way I am, and of course if you’re winning, it helps your team and it helps to feel good.”
Khudobin is hoping that getting off the losing hook on Saturday will lead to a lot more feeling good in the near future for him as a goalie, and for a Bruins team that desperately needs a quick in the backup goalie