BOSTON – Clearly, Anton Khudobin didn’t stand on his head on Friday afternoon while letting up three goals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But the Bruins backup goalie did enough to win his fourth game in a row between the pipes. He made a big-time stop on Phil Kessel with 7.5 seconds left from the edge of the left face-off circle with Patric Hornqvist bearing down on him right in front of the net. It was one of his 17 saves in the 4-3 win that improved Khudobin to 7-0-2 on the season with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.
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The performance was an interesting one for the Bruins backup because it was clearly still solid without even a single softie among the three goals allowed, but not so dominant that the B's would feel compelled to play Khudobin again if they wanted to work Tuukka Rask back in against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday afternoon.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has a couple of days to make the decision and said the B’s are still very much going game-by-game with the goaltending choice between Khudobin and Rask.
“We’re going to go game-to-game. It’s not going to be...well, we’re playing Dobby [Khudobin] until he loses, you know, we talked about this. Personally, I thought to put Tuukka [Rask] in [on Friday] after no practice, he hasn’t had a lot of live action, would have been a disservice to him as well with an afternoon game,” said Cassidy. “Maybe if it was a night game, you know, he gets some feel in the morning. So Dobby was probably going to go either way because he’s played more lately.
“Now we’ll reassess. Again, I know it sounds like we’re kicking it down the curb, but that’s what we are doing to be honest with you because we don’t announce our goalie on Friday for Sunday. That’s what we’re looking at but that’s the thought process as well.”
Clearly, Khudobin is enjoying the run he’s having and seeing his name up near the top of the NHL save percentage leaderboard along with Sergei Bobrovsky and Corey Crawford. But he also understands that this isn’t an easy stretch for Rask sitting back and watching as the team keeps on winning and performing at its highest level all season. Rask hasn’t completely lost his starting job because the Bruins are still intent on getting their No. 1 back on track, but it’s the first time post-Tim Thomas that Rask has sat for four games in a row.
That’s a pretty significant development in the grand scheme of things with the B’s goaltending situation.
“It’s never easy," Khudobin said. "It’s never easy and we are partners and I wish him really, really well ahead of us in games. He’s going to get in games – I don’t know when – but I hope he’s going to get in a rhythm too, because we both do the same job. My job is the same, and if I’m going out there then I try to play and try to get the win. If he’s going to go there, then [it’s the] same thing. I wish him good luck in everything. So, there’s nothing changed about that.
“I think for every goalie, when you’re playing more and more and more, you always get in a rhythm, you feel the puck better, you kind of, you see the puck better, and of course, for me personally it’s easier. I mean, it’s not really easy to play in this league, but when you’re in the rhythm, then it’s easier for me.”
The million dollar question is when, or if, Rask is going to get into that same rhythm that’s leading the way for Khudobin, and when he’s going to get that chance again after struggling through the first few months of the season.