Anton Khudobin

Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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'Another strong game' for Khudobin in return from injury

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'Another strong game' for Khudobin in return from injury

TORONTO – The Bruins fell in overtime after failing to hold a tight one-goal lead at the end of the third period, but it was no reflection on the goaltender.

Anton Khudobin hadn’t played in more than two weeks because of a lower-body injury, but came back with minimal rust and stopped 30-of-33 shots in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. The overtime loss puts Khudobin at 3-0-2 in five starts on the season, and the Bruins veteran backup hasn’t yet lost in regulation after not securing his second win of last season until February.

While that’s something to be proud of given how important a backup goalie’s effectiveness is to the overall success of a hockey team, Khudobin can’t help but be disappointed when the Bruins are on the losing end of one of his appearances.

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“It’s tough to say because it was a tough loss, but at least we got the point,” said Khudobin. “Overall I thought we played pretty well. We did a lot of good things. Maybe we didn’t score enough or maybe I didn’t stop enough [pucks]…I don’t know. But overall I thought we played pretty well; we just didn’t get rewarded.

“There is always something we can fix in this game, so we’re going to continue to work. But we’re moving forward.”

All three Toronto goals on Friday night were from Leafs players that were essentially uncovered in front of the net: A James van Riemsdyk power play goal in the second period, a JVR redirect in the last minute of the third period with Toronto employing an extra attacker for the pulled goalie and an odd-man rush in 3-on-3 overtime after Mitch Marner had stripped David Pastrnak of the puck at the offensive blue line.   

Khudobin made some excellent saves throughout the nip-and-tuck game including a first period stop on Nazem Kadri in the first period, and a third period save on Dominic Moore trying to rush the net prior to the eventual tying goal.

“It was another strong game,” said Bruce Cassidy of Khudobin, who is actually tied for 19th in the NHL with his .923 save percentage on the season. “Listen, the guy has been really good for us. He seems like he’s tightening up his game as we’ve gone along too. It seemed like he had some rebound issues early [in the season], but he’s really tightened those up.

“He has better control. Give him credit against a good offensive team, and [his teammates] played fairly well in front of him. Give him a lot of credit.”

Khudobin will get as much credit as one can get in a game where his hockey team coughed up a one-goal lead late in the game, but the hope now is that Tuukka Rask can pick up the slack on Saturday vs. the Leafs in the second half of the home-and-home series. 

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Bruins get the better of a call that had Sharks steamed

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Bruins get the better of a call that had Sharks steamed

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins survived a 15-shot barrage in the third period from the San Jose Sharks to protect a 2-1 win on Thursday night and the bulk of the work was done by Anton Khudobin and the B’s defenders in front of him. Still, they might have had a late assist from the refs as the Bruins got a whistle while hemmed in their zone with less than two minutes to play when the B’s net was dislodged.

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Replays showed Zdeno Chara and Anton Khudobin making contact with the two posts prior to the net getting dislodged. The whistle from the refs cut like a knife through the momentum of the play that was clearly going away from the B’s. Boston held on for the win once play resumed and Khudobin said afterward he was simply pushing off the post to get to the other side of the net as all goaltenders are taught to do inside the crease.

"I don't know what happened. That happened last game too. I tried to get over for my post coverage and tried to get over to the left side, and the last game [against Buffalo] it happened the exact same,” said Khudobin, who made 36 saves. “I tried to push off the post. What can you do? It's the referee’s decision and we're just the players."

If the referees were to make a call at that particular point in the game, it would be for a penalty shot that would signify a major infraction handing the Sharks a chance to tie the score. Here’s the rule:

 63.5 Penalty Shot – If the goal post is deliberately displaced by a goalkeeper or player during the course of a “breakaway,” a penalty shot will be awarded to the non-offending team, which shot shall be
taken by the player last in possession of the puck. If by reason of insufficient time in the regular playing time or by 
reason of penalties already imposed, the minor penalty assessed to a
player for deliberately displacing his own goal post cannot be served in its entirety within the regular playing time of the game or at any time
in overtime, a penalty shot shall be awarded against the offending team.

 
Clearly, the refs didn’t see the play as something as egregiously wrong as the Sharks players did and San Jose coach Peter DeBoer was complaining postgame that he never got an explanation from the officials.

“Yeah. It looked pretty clear…I didn’t get an explanation why,” said DeBoer. “So, I didn’t get an explanation for a lot of things tonight. It didn’t surprise me. But we’ll concentrate on what we have to concentrate on – that’s our game. We have to find a way to win.”