Khudobin continues brilliant season while stepping in for Rask vs. Habs

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Khudobin continues brilliant season while stepping in for Rask vs. Habs

BOSTON – Bruce Cassidy normally announces his starting goaltender a day or more in advance, but he didn’t do that ahead of Saturday’s regular season finale against the arch-rival Montreal Canadiens. It was slightly eyebrow-raising coming off a Thursday night performance where Tuukka Rask had a dreadful first period despite eventually earning the win, and amidst a six game stretch where Rask has amassed a yuk-worthy .888 save percentage.


As it turns out Rask is nursing a “very, very minor injury” according to Cassidy, and that meant backup Anton Khudobin would get the assignment on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. As he’s done pretty much all season, Khudobin responded with a fantastic performance in going save-for-save with a brilliant Antti Niemi while waiting for the Bruins offense to catch up to him in a comeback 2-1 overtime win vs. the Canadiens at TD Garden.

“You’ve got to give their goalie credit,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought, for a 1-1 game, both goaltenders were – I don’t know if they were one and two star -- but damn close if they weren’t. I thought it was a really well played game as far as the goaltending.”

The Bruins outshot the Habs by a 50-28 margin and dominated long stretches of the game, but the Canadiens certainly got some high quality chances against a B’s team that was skating five D-men after the first period injury to Charlie McAvoy. After getting beaten by a Brendan Gallagher snipe off a Kevan Miller turnover halfway through the first period Khudobin was perfect after that while keeping the Bruins in a game where they trailed by one goal for almost 40 minutes.

One more mistake could have sunk the Bruins, and Khudobin never made it while shutting down odd-man rushes and making flashy glove saves. He did just that in the second period shutting down Logan Shaw on a 2-on-1 while aggressively attacking the shooter, and then later snatching a sizzling Alex Galchenyuk one-timer with a big glove hand.


In all Khudobin stopped 27 shots and improved to 14-4-4 in what’s been his best NHL season that continues to onward and upward as Rask’s oft-used backup.

“They are a pretty fast team but they played back to back so maybe, I don’t want to say that we were frustrated in the offensive zone and that’s why it happened, but [the odd man rushes] happened,” said Khudobin. “Sometimes you have games like this that you’re probably going to see more odd man rushes than just straight shots. It just happens like that.”

“It’s a 1-1 game going to overtime and the other goalie was playing really well and I was just hoping that we were going to score that’s all. It’s never too easy when you’re just standing there and you have a couple of great scoring chances and one of them can go in and you’re like one chance and there goes the game. I’m glad we won the game and it went our way.”

With a .921 save percentage that’s better than Rask’s this season and a comparable 2.34 goals against average this season, a lot of things have deservedly gone Khudobin’s way during a brilliant season with the Black and Gold. There should be no hesitation with calling Khudobin’s number on days like Saturday where the Bruins are trying to keep their No. 1 goalie fresh and rested during the stretch run.


Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

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Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

BOSTON – It wasn’t a winning debut for Bruins rookie Ryan Donato, but it was nonetheless extremely impressive. 

Cam Atkinson scored on a wrist shot in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 overtime in on Monday night at TD Garden, but 21-year-old Donato finished with a goal and three points in an impressive, impact performance in his first NHL game after signing with the Black and Gold.

The Bruins looked a little shaky very early in the game as Brandon Carlo coughed up a puck in the D-zone that immediately turned into a Thomas Vanek-to-Boone Jenner strike for the Blue Jackets. But the Bruins responded in the second period with a first NHL goal from Ryan Donato, a bombed beauty from the right face-off dot after playing the give-and-go game with Torey Krug. 

It was the eighth Bruins player to score their first NHL goal for the Black and Gold this season in a youth movement that’s been as overwhelming as it’s been straight-up good. 

Brad Marchand followed less than two minutes later with a top shelf backhanded bullet off a drop pass from David Pastrnak for his 31st goal of the season, and the Bruins made it 3-1 on a Riley Nash power play strike assisted by Donato as well. 

The Blue Jackets got one right back with a Sonny Milano wide open score on the backdoor, and Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin both scored in the third period to give the Blue Jackets a short-lived lead. Once again the Bruins fought right back and this time it was Donato throwing a backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci all alone in front for his 17th goal of the season. 

That play capped off a three-point night for the 21-year-old Donato in his first NHL appearance, and really sets the stage for what could be an impactful late season addition to the Black and Gold’s roster. After a scoreless rest of the third period, the Bruins and Blue Jackets settled things in the extra session with Boston picking up another point in defeat.


Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

BRIGHTON – If you stay in the NHL for long enough, the hockey circle of life becomes complete for any player.

Sometimes it might be coaching the son of a former teammate or a former NHL player watching their kids suit up against guys they used to play against. Much more rarely, it might be father and son playing on the same team as the late, great Hall of Famer Gordie Howe did with his sons at the tail end of his brilliant career.

Much more common are NHL players sticking around long enough to play with sons of their former teammates. Such was the case with Patrice Bergeron, 32, skating at practice on Monday with the newly signed Ryan Donato. Bergeron couldn’t help but feel a little old at the notion, but immediately went back to his days as an 18-year-old NHL rookie playing with Teddy Donato in the final season of his NHL career back in 2003-04.

“It’s definitely different. When I was an 18-year-old coming in [to the NHL] I was playing with his dad, and that year [Ryan, as a little kid] was skating a few times after practice and I was there,” said Bergeron, going into the way-back machine to when he was the youngest player in the league in his first season. “Now he’s in the locker room and going to be a part of the team. He comes from a great family. I just hope I can help him as much as Teddy [helped me].

“It certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger. I still think I am, and that I’ve got a few good years ahead of me. It’s a little weird to see that, but that where I am in my career, I guess.”

Clearly, the memories of the younger Donato are notable for Bergeron, and they are doubly so for a young guy in Donato who's idolized No. 37. In fact, Donato said he was blown away that Bergeron even remembered him when they bumped into each other at the summer pro league in Foxboro a couple of years back.

It was a long way away from Bergeron heading over to Donato’s house for pool parties when he was still a teenager just starting to make NHL waves.

“This is what kind of guy Patrice Bergeron is...he was around the house a little bit when I was a little kid and he was a rookie in the NHL,” said Donato, telling the story at last summer’s development camp after dominating the rest of his Bruins prospect peers for a week’s time. “I hadn’t seen him for a pretty long time, and then he saw me in Foxboro a couple of years ago and said ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’

“That’s pretty cool when your idol and the player you most look up to can remember you like that. It says a lot about him as a person, and we know what he’s all about as a player. He’s just a great of the best.”

It was when Donato retold that story to that we had a pretty good idea he wouldn’t be signing anywhere else but with the Black and Gold.

Bergeron and Donato won’t get to play together at the start, unfortunately, with the Bruins franchise center still out with a fractured right foot. That’s part of the reason the Donato, who turns 22 April 9, is being brought in with Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk down with injuries and the Bruins in need of some dynamic wingers with offensive pop. Clearly, Donato has proven everything he needs to at the collegiate level with 26 goals in 29 games this season at Harvard and he was Team USA’s most dynamic player in PyeongChang with five goals scored in the tournament.

It’s still unclear how much of an impact Donato is going to make jumping straight from the NCAAs to the NHL, but he’s ready to start living out his NHL dreams with the Bruins team that also drafted and developed his dad 30 years ago.

“It’s a whirlwind. Right now it’s pretty crazy. Obviously, I’m really excited," he said. "It’s something I don’t want to happen too fast so I can cherish every second of it. Right now it’s a lot of fun,” said Donato, who signed his two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday. “Even going out for [the morning skate] was a dream come true. It didn’t even feel real yet.

“I just want to play well and do whatever I can to help the team. I just want to go in confident and do what I can to help. At the end of the day, it’s just hockey and I’ve been playing it my whole life, so hopefully, I can play to the best of my abilities.”

With a strong Bruins support system headed by a couple of his father's former NHL teammates in Don Sweeney and Cam Neely- who have known him since he was a little kid - and a roster primed for a long playoff run, the younger Donato couldn’t be asking for a better situation to show what he can do in the NHL. 

Now, it’s up to Donato to show he’s a chip off the old block as the son of a former Bruins forward who scored 150 goals and totaled nearly 350 points in a distinguished NHL career. Perhaps it’ll give him a chance to show that he’s going to be even better than the old man, who was pretty darn good in Black and Gold.