Khudobin again proving to be difference-maker for B's

Khudobin again proving to be difference-maker for B's

NEW YORK – Anton Khudobin again came to the Bruins’ rescue on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Sure. the Bruins ended kicking sand all over the 98-pound weakling New York Rangers to the tune of an eventual 6-1 score at MSG, but it was the affable backup goalie battling through the first period that helped pave the way for a blowout.

It was clear early in the game that the B’s didn’t have their legs on the second night of a back-to-back on the road and it was up to Khudobin to stop several Grade-A chances among their 11 shots on net in the first period. Sure, there was one Rick Nash snipe that managed to get by him on a turnover from Zdeno Chara, but after that Khudobin was battling, leaping and doing anything under the sun to keep the puck out of the net.

“That was a scramble. The first I tried to keep out and it went through my legs. Then I tried to find the puck, and there was another shot…a deflection. I tried to kick it out, but then I kicked it out and was like ‘uh-oh.’ There was another rebound. I just tried to get there,” said Khudobin, who finished with 21 saves in the win over the Blueshirts. “[Before the game] I’m just getting ready for as many shots as it’s going to be, and just trying to stop them all.

“It’s not easy. It’s back-to-back, it’s an 8 o’clock game and I can’t even remember the last time I played an eight o’clock game. It’s a long day and a nice building and everything, so it was pretty cool. A lot of guys come to me today and say ‘helluva game’ or whatever, but this is my job…to save the pucks. I’m happy to get wins.”

Those aforementioned best stops of the night came in succession when he poke-checked a big chance away from Mika Zibanejad, went into hyperactive mode and then recovered in time to swat away Nash’s bid for his second goal of the night. It was a blur for Khudobin and provided exactly what the Bruins needed as he’s done so many times this season all while sporting an 11-3-4 record.

One of the most clearly defined differences between this season's dominant group and last season’s playoff bubble team has been the excellence of Khudobin. Clearly, the Bruins understood just how important Khudobin was early in the game until the B’s began finding their legs in the final 40 minutes.

“The first period I thought our goaltender was terrific,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had some breakdowns in the slot that were a little bit uncharacteristic for us, but we got through it. The one on Nash was unbelievable. It happened with Tuukka last week at home where he made a big save backdoor, we end up winning and it sometimes gets lost. But it isn’t on us. He was excellent in the first period and was there for us. He was the difference early, and he’s been good all year.”

There’s no doubting Khudobin’s importance to everything Boston is doing when you look back at the four-game winning streak in mid-November that kicked off their 27-4-4 run, and the sterling .925 save percentage he’s sporting this season. Khudobin’s strong play certainly opens the door for him to seize the backup job in Boston for much longer than just this season when his two-year contract runs out in the summer.



Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick. 

The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.

Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.

In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.

There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.



Holden, Vatrano meet up with B's in Toronto

Holden, Vatrano meet up with B's in Toronto

TORONTO – The traveling party is growing to pretty gigantic proportions for the Bruins.

Newly acquired defenseman Nick Holden and injured winger Frank Vatrano (lower body) both met the team in Toronto now that Boston has returned from the Western Canadian portion of their five-game trip.

Anders Bjork (upper body) remains the only injured Bruins player back in Boston.

The Bruins had a travel day from Edmonton to Toronto on Wednesday and didn’t practice for the second day in a row on Thursday while getting perhaps their final exhale in before a mad sprint to end the season.

Beginning this weekend, the Bruins will close out the season with a whopping 24 games in 44 games ahead of a playoff berth that’s become a formality at this point. So, the depth and wealth of bodies will be a good thing for the Bruins, but right now they have an unwieldy nine defensemen with the addition of Holden to the Black and Gold and Kevan Miller now fully healthy.

So, something has to give with the NHL roster whether it’s a Paul Postma demotion to Providence, a trade of a younger D-men such as Matt Grzelcyk or Brandon Carlo or something unexpected from Don Sweeney ahead of the trade deadline on Monday.  

“I would think so. Let’s see him in a regular practice first, and then we’ll go from there with what our lineup looks like. I don’t have a definitive answer,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked how the 30-year-old Holden will fit into Boston’s lineup. “We’ll get through a team practice [on Friday] and we’ll make decisions from there. With the deadline coming up, some decisions will have to be made. It is difficult to hold practice with nine guys [on the back end], but that’s something Don and I will sit down about.

“It’s something we’ll just have to do in the short term prior to [the trade deadline on] Monday. Obviously, Kevan Miller is ready to go, so we’ve got nine healthy ‘D’ as well.”

Things will begin to clear up a little bit when the Bruins hit the ice for Friday morning practice at Ricoh Coliseum ahead of this weekend’s back-to-back road games against the Maple Leafs and the Sabres.