Bruins

Khudobin's on horse, not under it, after first win of season

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Khudobin's on horse, not under it, after first win of season

GLENDALE, Arizona – Anton Khudobin loves to win hockey games.

The Bruins backup goalie loves when his team comes out as a winner, and he’s even more enthused when it’s him at the heart of a winning effort with a good performance between the pipes. So Khudobin was overjoyed after helping lead the Bruins to a 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes in his first start of the season.

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While it’s true that Khudobin wasn’t severely tested in a game that the Bruins dominated from the second period through the final horn, it was still a win for a goalie that didn’t get his second ‘W’ of last season until very late in the year. So the 31-year-older Russian netminder wasn’t about to mince words when it came to the importance of winning to him.

“The ‘W’ is always great. No matter what the score, whether it’s 8-6 or 9-7. If you win then you win. Nobody talks about losers. Everybody talks about winners, right?” said Khudobin. “If you win, then you’re on the horse, and if you don’t then you’re under it. It’s great to get one at the start of the season, and so now hopefully it’s not going to roll like it did last year.”

Khudobin was likely at his best early in stopping 9-of-10 shots in the first period when it was still a hotly contested hockey game. That solid performance early allowed the Bruins to shake off the cobwebs and get into the rhythm of their game, and that began happening with much more snap and precision starting in the second period.

The plan all along was for Khudobin to get one of the two back-to-back games this weekend, but there was never any certainty it was going to be Arizona until Bruce Cassidy made that call at the end of this week. Clearly it was the right call and now sets things up for Tuukka Rask to answer with his own strong performance in Vegas on Sunday night, and get the Bruins goaltending picture up where it should be all season.

“He did his job and that’s what we want. He gave us a chance to win,” said Cassidy. “He got some run support tonight, but he doesn’t know that after the first period…so good for him. He battled and he always does. We needed it.”

Khudobin battled, he managed to stay on his horse and he got the all-important win for his Bruins. It sounds like a pretty solid all-around night for a backup goalie that the Bruins are going to need to play like that for 20-25 games this season while supporting starter Tuukka Rask. 

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Haggerty: Feels like the B's could use an offensive spark plug like Donato

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Haggerty: Feels like the B's could use an offensive spark plug like Donato

BRIGHTON, Mass – The one thing that we’ve seen play out in the three losses to the Maple Leafs in their best-of-seven series is a lack of offensive finish on the chances that they’re getting against the Toronto defense. Boston has launched 162 shot attempts in the last two losses to the Maple Leafs both home and on the road, and they’ve managed to score just four goals despite clearly holding the advantage in terms of puck possession, chances and vulcanized rubber tossed at the opposing net.

Most concerning of all, the Bruins top line players in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak all looked visibly frustrated by the third period of Monday night’s Game 6 loss, and really look like they’re beginning to be at a loss at how to beat Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. It still remains to be seen if Andersen is going to be able to continue the hot goaltender act in a winner-take-all Game 7 situation, or if that the frustration for Boston’s elite players will spill over into an elimination game for both teams. 

But one thing that should be strongly considered given all those recent factors would be inserting 21-year-old Ryan Donato into the lineup for the Bruins. Donato had five goals and nine points in 12 games for the Bruins at the end of the season after signing out of Harvard University and was excellent on the power play while working with the top unit during Rick Nash’s injury absence in those final weeks. Now the secondary scoring has essentially dried up for the B’s behind their top line, the weight of the entire offense has begun to burden the top line and the Bruins power play is 1-for-9 in their last four games after bounding out of the gate red hot to start the series. 

Donato has the natural goal-scoring ability, the shot and release and the good hockey IQ to create offense in pretty rapid fashion, and has always been a possibility for the Black and Gold if the offense got a little too static during the postseason. Donato played in one game where he had a couple of shots and some decent time working things out in the offensive zone, but he also showed he’s got some things to learn in terms of board battles and defensive zone work.

There’s also the fact the Bruins seem much more comfortable with Donato at left wing than they do with him manning his off-wing on the right side. 

That’s the dilemma for Bruce Cassidy when it comes to mulling an insertion of Donato into the lineup to act as an offensive jumper cable of sorts. Clearly, they’ve mulled it over and given the idea it’s due diligence in discussions, but it doesn’t sound like the Bruins are going to drop the youngster into Wednesday night’s Game 7 scenario. 

“We’ve considered [playing Donato] certainly,” said Cassidy. “He played a game early [in the series] and he was okay. He wasn’t bad and he wasn’t great. He was somewhere in between. Nothing is set in stone as far as [Game 7] goes. There is something to be said for going with the players that have got you this far, and Danton Heinen is one of those players. 

“Danton has played right wing, and that’s where Donato in our minds is really strictly a left winger. That’s where the juggling would come in if we were going to use Ryan. It was Wingels last night with good playoff experience on the road, and I thought he did a good job. Ryan is in consideration, but we’re going to try and play the best 12 forwards and see how they fit to win a hockey game [on Wednesday]. 

This humble hockey writer’s view: It probably would have been a better idea to give Donato at right wing a shot in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre rather than trying to pass Tommy Wingels off as a second line winger. If the move didn’t work out in Boston’s favor then at least there was still Game 7 to fall back on, but that’s in the rearview mirror. Cassidy needs to decide between going with the tried and true formula of what got the Bruins to this point in the first place while showing unshakable faith, or mixing things up in a tacit acknowledgment that something needs to change after Boston’s two losses in a row in the series headed into Game 7. 

It’s not an easy choice and so much of winning a Game 7 situation is avoiding the kind of rookie mistakes that Donato could easily fall victim to if he was in the lineup for Boston, but it also feels a little tight and a tad conservative for Cassidy to decide that the super-talented young Donato doesn’t have enough upside to push into the lineup. 

It might just come down to this: If you have a choice of which Bruin should have the puck in a key scoring chance during the game, would be it Tommy Wingels, Danton Heinen or Ryan Donato. All due respect to both Wingels and Heinen, but it’s the electric Donato amid some healthy offensive totals he had no trouble scoring when given regular playing time in March and April.

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A return for Heinen looks like only Game 7 lineup change

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A return for Heinen looks like only Game 7 lineup change

BRIGHTON, Mass – It remains an unfinished product until the Bruins take the ice for warm-ups on Wednesday night ahead of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it looked like Bruce Cassidy would again be tinkering with the Black and Gold lineup. It looked like Danton Heinen was going to draw back in after being a healthy scratch for Game 6, and was skating on the right wing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk at practice. 

If that were the case then Tommy Wingels would be back out of the lineup after dressing for Game 6, and both Ryan Donato and Brian Gionta would once be out of the game night group of 12 forwards for the decisive Wednesday night game. Cassidy said there is plenty to consider, of course, but that he felt some allegiance to the players that have brought the Bruins this far over the course of the entire regular season. 

“What we decide to do tomorrow it’s not set in stone today,” said Cassidy. “But there is a certain level of trust in the players that have gotten you this far, and Danton Heinen is certainly one of those guys. You look at his numbers and maybe that line hasn’t produced a lot 5-on-5…so what can do better? 

“He’s still a good defensive player, so he’s always going to give us that. He can play up in the lineup and he’s certainly shown that he can play down with [Sean] Kuraly. Rick Nash can certainly go back with Krejci, so that’s another quick fix.”

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Tuesday’s brief practice where it appeared that everybody made it through Game 6 with their health intact ahead of Wednesday’s winner-take-all series finale:   

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen

Nash-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari 

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 

Rask

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