Bruins

Khudobin's hot hand ends with 'tough game' vs. Predators

bruins_anton_khudobin_120517.jpg

Khudobin's hot hand ends with 'tough game' vs. Predators

NASHVILLE -- The big question going into Monday night’s showdown in Nashville was whether or not Anton Khudobin would still be riding a hot hand after a 10-day layoff following his last start. It was back to normal for the B’s backup netminder in terms of workload, but it’s not often you see a goalie riding a four-game winning streak proceed to go a week-and-a-half between appearances.

We found out why on Monday evening as Khudobin gave up four goals before getting yanked in the second period of an eventual 5-3 loss to the Predators. The backup certainly didn’t get any favors from the defense in front of him with some pretty brutal breakdowns, but Khudobin also struggled mightily with his rebound control before getting pulled in favor of Tuukka Rask.

Perhaps there were some signs this kind of game was coming from Khudobin after he looked erratic with his rebounds in his last win vs. Pittsburgh right after Thanksgiving, but nobody could have guessed it would be this rough.

The first goal allowed was probably the biggest demerit on Khudobin’s ledger for the night with a juicy rebound of an Alexei Emelin shot that kicked right out to Craig Smith for the put-back score.

“Maybe in the middle of the first,” said Khudobin, when asked if he ever got settled into the game. “[It was a] tough bounce on that first goal. It hit on the wrong side of my pad, and it was a tough bounce.”

The final straw was watching Khudobin give up two goals on three shots in the second period with the Bruins then trailing by four goals. Afterward, Khudobin was properly exasperated, and at a loss for words after watching his goals against balloon to 2.52 and his save percentage drop to .922 after just one bad outing.   

“It was a tough game…tough game. With scoring chances against, they pretty much scored on everything that they had,” said Khudobin, who short-changed himself a good save on a Kyle Turris breakaway. “I don’t know what to say to be really honest. When the game’s not going your way, you have to change something to get the guys going.”

The good news about Monday night from a goaltending perspective was that Tuukka Rask stopped 10-of-11 shots, and was strong enough to allow the Bruins a furious comeback before the Fillip Forsberg breakaway ice things in the third period. Rask is heating up (a .937 save percentage over his last four games) as Khudobin is regressing back closer to his career numbers (a 2.47 goals against average and .917 save percentage), and the normal balance of things between the Bruins goaltending duo is returning to normal.

That’s bad news for a goalie in Khudobin that’s no longer red-hot after his worst start of the season, but it’s also pretty decent news for a Bruins team that survived Rask’s down period (thanks to Khudobin) and is now readying for the potential beginnings of a shutdown stretch from their established No. 1 guy. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

bruins_matt_grzelcyk_torey_krug_121017.jpg

Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is fond of saying that internal competition brings out the best in everybody on a hockey club, and he’s lived that credo with the way he’s handled the goaltending situation this season.

Cassidy is also seeing that competition paying dividends with the defensemen group now that Matt Grzelcyk is hitting his stride at the NHL level, giving Torey Krug a push as a similarly skilled, left shot, puck-moving defenseman. Krug finished with a couple of assists and a plus-1 rating in 17:55 of ice time in a strong game in the 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night, and Grzelcyk was solid in his 16:47 of ice time as well with an active five shot attempts.

The 23-year-old Grzelcyk is building his comfort level at the NHL level, and has been pretty good with three points and a plus-5 rating in nine games while avoiding any major mistakes with puck management or D-zone play.

MORE:

There may be some adjustments for Krug based on Grzelcyk being eligible to play in most of the same situations that No. 47 would regularly hop over the boards for in the past, but Cassidy sees that as something that could ultimately benefit the Bruins.

“I think it will in the long run [it will be a benefit]. [Krug] may lose a shift or two, which will annoy him. Any player with pride will [be annoyed],” said Cassidy. “But once that part is [done] – you digest that and say, well, I don’t want to lose any more shifts, [you say] ‘What do I have to do to earn the coaches trust or get those shifts back.’ Because he has our trust, but earn [the right to] be the first guy over the boards every time in situations. He’s going to push himself, and he should. That’s what we want. And then hopefully we get to a nice balance where we don’t have to overuse one guy in every situation.

“We want Torey to be our 1A in those situations. Charlie [McAvoy] is pushing him too, and now you have Griz [Matt Grzelcyk], so we have three different [offensive] guys. It’s only going to make us better, and I’ll tell you why. Because those guys – we have guys that aren’t pouting there because of that either. There’s a difference between being annoyed and having pride, or having a guy that pouts and shuts it down. We don’t have that. I’m fortunate as a coach that they can wrap their heads around it eventually and just want to outplay the next guy, yet still be happy for his success. It’s a nice problem and you are seeing some of it now bubble up.”

There have been long stretches with the Bruins over the last couple of seasons where Krug was the lone offensive defenseman choice when they needed plays to be made, and it factored into the 5-foot-9 D-man topping 21 minutes of ice time in each of the last two seasons. Krug is down a little averaging 20:33 of ice time per game this season, but he’s under 20 minutes (19:33, to be exact) per game during the month of December coinciding with the arrival of Grzelcyk.

It makes for challenges on the penalty kill when the Bruins have only one real left shot D-man in Chara that’s a defensive stalwart, and it’s too small of a sample size to say that Grzelcyk will keep playing this consistently over the long haul. There’s also the fact that Adam McQuaid will be returning to the mix sooner rather than later, and that will force the Bruins into different configurations at some point down the road.

But for now they’ve got a pretty good thing going with their mix of young and old, puck movers and stay-at-home shutdown guys, and that’s reflected in the healthy, friendly competition going on between Krug and Grzelcyk right now.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

bruins_david_backes_121216.jpg

Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while getting in the holiday spirit listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Bruce Springsteen, my favorite holiday song even though I’m not really a Springsteen guy.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t give this Brad Marchand play a second thought as far as supplementary discipline goes. He was whacked with a five minute interference major, which I thought was excessive in the first place, there were no injuries and it ended a contentious shift between Marchand and John Tavares. Let’s not go crazy with the suspensions and hearings, shall we? Let’s keep a little bit of the fun, violence and mayhem in the game, and leave it with what the officials called on the ice at the time. Good call by the Department of Player Safety to leave this one alone despite Marchand’s longtime customer status, and to leave alone the weird head-butting call on David Backes as well.  

David Pastrnak has officially made it in Boston with a profile in the Improper Bostonian. I never knew that Pasta was an amateur artist, or that he now has a Porsche after the new contract. Not too shabby.

The Florida Panthers need a goaltender with Roberto Luongo down and out, and former Bruins goalie farmhand Mike Hutchinson is one of the lead possibilities to help the Panthers out according to recent speculation from many, including Pro Hockey Talk.

The Golden Knights are in the weeds again with another tweet attempting to be funny that angered the Nashville Predators media corps. Was it ill-advised and poorly executed? Certainly if it was taken seriously as something that was meant to be funny, and that is always a potential pitfall when trying to be funny and edgy on twitter. But it’s a little much to think this was going to be damaging to anybody in particular. At least the Golden Knights were adult enough to apologize that they were in the wrong, as opposed to milquetoast Montreal radio personality Connor McKenna, who tried to pull a similar lame stunt with the Bruins media a few years ago.

More thoughts on the body of work that Matthew Tkachuk is putting together this season along with other assorted hockey things in The Athletic notebook.

For something completely different: You’ve got to love the response by some athletes down in Tennessee to a video posted on social media of a sweet little kid getting bullied. This is the way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE