Bruins

Khudobin continues to look strong behind Rask

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Khudobin continues to look strong behind Rask

BOSTON – There were multiple reasons why it made sense for the Bruins to go right back to Anton Khudobin on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.

First and foremost, was easing Tuukka Rask back as he returns from a concussion and getting him ready to reclaim the No. 1 job against the L.A. Kings on Saturday night. But it was also going to benefit the team, and its goaltending situation, if Khudobin could respond to getting his number called again versus the Sharks, not to mention the boost it gives the Russian goalie’s confidence after a rough weekend for him and the players in front of him.

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So, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins opted for Khudobin despite Rask being cleared to play, and he responded with a 36-save gem against the San Jose Sharks in a 2-1 victory at TD Garden. It was a feel-good moment to rival the feel-bad spot from last weekend when he coughed up five goals and helped blow a three-goal lead against the Sabres.

While Khudobin did see 37 shots in a busy night of work, he credited the players in front of him for a much more stable game than the Jekyll and Hyde deal from the weekend.

“They did a hell of a job in front of me, blocking shots and they [San Jose] played in front really well, too, and they were screening, but maybe there was kind of more luck I would say,” said Khudobin. “We didn’t get unlucky bounces and all kinds of stuff, but at the same time, the guys did a hell of a job in front of me. They were clearing the pucks, and they were blocking the shots. They stayed in the right position when the shot was going through, and stuff like that.”

Khudobin was at his best in the third period when he turned away 15 shots, including a couple of bids in close from Melker Karlsson on a partial breakaway, and seemingly changed his own mojo rather than letting the bad Buffalo taste from last weekend linger.

Khudobin has points in each of his four starts with a 3-0-1 record, a solid .926 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average while completely fulfilling his job description as the quality backup.

“Very good, [Khudobin was] very good. Dobby is always going to have a bit of energy, for lack of a better word, in there and more movement than most, but I thought he was very composed and under control for his game,” said Cassidy. “[His] puck play was solid, very focused, seemed like he was taking care of the little details in terms of positioning.

“Like I said, he’s always going to look a little – you know, he’s not your typical technically robotic goaltender -- but I thought it was a very good bounce-back game. Got us points again, every start he’s had his points.”

With a goal of playing Rask no more than 55-60 games this season to manage his workload, the Bruins were going to need Khudobin to be at his best as well to merit the increase in his work. It’s been so far, so good for Khudobin, who is doing a perfect job of earning more playing time behind Rask and also keeping a fire lit under the No. 1 that there’s a capable backup Boston won’t hesitate to call upon if any kind of malaise sets in with their franchise goaltender.  

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

When the Bruins take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night deep in the outer reaches of Western Canada, there will be a couple of things at play. One will be the start of a long sprint to the end of the regular season with 27 games in a scant 52 days with no more long breaks to catch their collective breath.

The worst of the worst will be 16 games in March, which could be the thing that ultimately knocks the Black and Gold down a peg after they’ve managed to play through everything else this season.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by just a couple of points for the NHL’s top spot, the Bruins know the schedule itself will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.

“We’re certainly aware of our schedule the rest of the way, and we know that it’s going to be a challenge. There aren’t too many more days off and we’re pretty much playing every other day,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So some of it will be about getting the proper rest and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play. But this has also been a group that’s done a really good job of handling other things that have been thrown at us whether it’s injuries or something else. This is just another challenge to take on.”

But the other, smaller picture is of the five-game trip through Canada with a final stop in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bruins will play those five games in ten days in their longest trip of the regular season. They hope to conjure up some of the same mojo that kicked off their three-month winning binge way back in mid-November. It was then that the Bruins righted the ship on a trip through California and won games in Los Angeles and San Jose that kicked off a four-game winning streak that helped change the season.

The Bruins are much more comfortable now with a giant cushion for a playoff spot and a legitimate chance to overtake the Lightning, but Bruce Cassidy is hoping to see the same kind of hunger in this particular long stretch away from home.

“This is much more about what we are and what we look like, but having said that the [California trip] was the beginning of us [turning things around]. It had us gutting out some wins in typically tough places to play like L.A. and San Jose. [Anton] Khudobin was in net and we were relying on some call-up guys, but that was really when our D-corps really stiffened up,” said Cassidy. “It kind of got us back to our heads above water, and from there we kind of took off. But now this is a different group in a different position, and we’re pushing to be in a different position.

“I think you can say Tuukka [Rask] won us all these games or [Brad] Marchand or [Patrice] Bergeron. Our best players have been our best players, but our support players have been very good, especially on those nights when we’ve needed to lean on them a little more when they’ve able to shut down [the Bergeron Line]. I think our support players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bruins clearly hope this mammoth trip can be another seasonal turning point that pushes them in a direction toward a strong, decisive finish to the marathon of a regular season.

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Report: Jake DeBrusk must be included in any deal for Ryan McDonagh

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Report: Jake DeBrusk must be included in any deal for Ryan McDonagh

While Bruins fans might have high hopes that their team is going to be able to land a veteran, proven No. 1 defenseman like Ryan McDonagh in exchange for a song, a bag pucks and a third round pick, that isn’t going to happen. 

The New York Rangers would want Bruins rookie left winger Jake DeBrusk included in any potential deal for McDonagh, according to Edmonton hockey insider Jim Matheson. The report flies in the face of speculation they might be willing to accept unproven prospects like Trent Frederic or Jack Studnicka. The expectation is that the Rangers would be looking for proven, young NHL assets if they were to part ways with a 28-year-old McDonagh, who is signed through next season. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility they’d be looking for DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and a draft pick for a frontline D-man signed through next season. 

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The 21-year-old DeBrusk has 11 goals and 29 points in 51 games for the Bruins, and has done a really nice job as the hard-working, skilled left winger alongside David Krejci for the balance of his rookie season in the NHL. DeBrusk hasn’t exactly been brilliant in his first season, but he’s shown the kind of skills and leadership qualities to be a very good and productive player for the Bruins for a good, long time. 

Clearly McDonagh would be a good fit for the Bruins as a player that would fortify their top-4 on the back end and potentially form a great pairing with 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy. The veteran Blueshirts defenseman would also give the Bruins a high-caliber veteran ready to take over the head of Boston’s D-corps when 40-year-old Zdeno Chara eventually calls it a career. 

But the sense around McDonagh and the Rangers is that Jeff Gorton wouldn’t pull the trigger with him unless he gets an offer he can’t refuse from Boston, Tampa, or any other interested suitors. The Rangers are under no real pressure to move McDonagh right now, and could certainly get a similar, if slightly lesser, haul in June if they opted to trade the defenseman around NHL Draft weekend.

The bottom line for the Bruins remains the same: Don Sweeney should tread carefully when it comes to significantly altering the DNA of a Bruins hockey club that’s threatening for the President’s Trophy this season, and has been the best team in the NHL over the last three months. Removing multiple players like DeBrusk or Carlo from their current group could be the kind of alterations that change the Bruins chemistry for the worse, and that would be a shame after what the Bruins have built up over the course of this season. 

The bottom line is this: Sweeney and the Bruins are in a great spot right now with a high-performing team and a wealth of good prospects, but this is when the decisions start getting really difficult with the wrong moves coming with significant consequences. 

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