COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: ANTON KHUDOBIN
Countdown to camp: Anton Khudobin
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Anton Khudobin.
One area where the Bruins have unquestionably improved from where they’ve been the past couple of seasons is backup goaltender. That’s because the B’s are bringing back old friend Anton Khudobin to back up Tuukka Rask. They've signed the Russian netminder to a two-year contract that will give Boston a rock-solid combo between the pipes. It should be a big improvement over Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson. Khudobin only played one full season for the Bruins, but it was one of his best seasons and it subsequently set him off on an odyssey over the past three years with the Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks. Now, he’s back to support Rask and give the Bruins a veteran netminder that can ably step in if they need more than what you'd expect from your average NHL understudy.
What happened last year
Anton Khudobin went into last season with high hopes in Anaheim, but ended up getting dropped down to AHL’s San Diego Gulls once the Ducks decided to go with John Gibson and Frederik Andersen as their goaltender tandem. Khudobin ended up playing nine games for the Ducks with a .909 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against average for a team that underachieved in a major way in front of him in the first half of the season. Khudobin put up strong numbers after he was sent back to the AHL last season and posted a .921 save percentage in 30 games that the Bruins would gladly take in Boston. At 30, Khudobin is what he is: a player that can once in a while look like a possible No. 1 goaltender, but is much better off as the backup goalie who can occasionally play a couple of games in a row if he gets hot between the pipes.
Questions to be answered this season
Given he has logged AHL time in two of the past three seasons, including a whopping 30 games for San Diego last season, it hasn’t always been roses and sunshine with Khudobin in his time with Carolina and Anaheim. He must show that he’s still every bit the same goaltender he was while posting excellent numbers as Rask’s solid backup goalie back in the 2012-13 season when the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Khudobin will also need to be able to hold off a roster push from young goaltender Malcolm Subban, who is coming back from a fractured larynx, and fend off competitors hungry to start establishing themselves as an NHL goaltender. If Khudobin can be the exact same player he was a few years ago, then the Bruins don’t have to do much more work getting their goalies ready for the regular season.
What they’re saying
“[The signing of] Anton Khudobin addressed an area that we seemed to have chased for a little while and possibly with Malcolm’s [Subban] injury we needed to address that for the next couple of seasons.” –Bruins GM Don Sweeney after signing Khudobin in July.
Khudobin was a talented backup netminder and a funny guy in the locker room three years ago in Boston and it doesn’t appear that anything has changed as he moves past his 30th birthday. He nearly took over as the No. 1 goaltender in Carolina before Cam Ward won his job back a couple of years ago, but Khudobin has been trending downward since then, with last year’s AHL run in San Diego serving as the roughest patch. The Bruins are banking on Khudobin playing at the same level he did in his first full pro season in Boston. They're hoping his familiarity with Rask can help bring out the best in Boston’s No. 1 goaltender as well. It’s a realistic set of goals for an athletic, instinctive goalie and it’s important for the Bruins that he achieves them after signing on for two years.