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.
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.