Bruins

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving full credit to the NHL for an excellent awards show that adeptly highlighted very emotional hockey stories involving Las Vegas and the Humboldt Broncos. Seeing all those Humboldt kids together while the Broncos head coach’s widow made an awards speech was very moving.

-- Speaking of the awards, here’s my full PHWA ballot submitted at the end of the season. I’ll admit that I had a very different line of thinking than most with my Hart Trophy vote, as I didn’t have Taylor Hall in my top five. I wasn’t going to penalize players like Evgeni Malkin and Nikita Kucherov for having outstanding seasons on good teams, as it seemed like this season’s voting was all about players, like Hall and Nathan MacKinnon, who essentially carried middling teams to the playoffs. I’d also stick with Patrice Bergeron as the best defensive forward in the NHL even if he missed 22 percent of the season (18 games) due to injuries. I know that many voters ended up dinging Bergeron for the time missed to injuries, and that opened the door for another very viable candidate in Anze Kopitar to win the Selke for the second time.

Victor Hedman for Norris and Mathew Barzal for Calder were both no-brainers, and the Lady Byng is always a toss-up as I didn’t have winner William Karlsson on my ballot either. Anyway, here’s my ballot:

Hart Trophy

1. Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers
3. Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
4. Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Norris Trophy

1. Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning
2. PK Subban Nashville Predators
3. John Carlson Washington Capitals
4. Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
5. Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers

Calder Trophy

1. Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
3. Yanni Gourde Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
5. Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes

Lady Byng Trophy

1. Ryan O'Reilly Buffalo Sabres
2. Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
3. Ryan Spooner New York Rangers
4. Mark Stone Ottawa Senators
5. Evgenii Dadonov Florida Panthers

Selke Trophy

1. Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
3. Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
4. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers

-- Think there might be some angry Edmonton Oilers fans who want a refund on the Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade that Peter Chiarelli engineered a couple of seasons ago? Yeah, I think there probably might be.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Darren Dreger says his gut feeling is that Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is going to get traded.

-- Which teams might be interested in Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly? Well, there should be plenty, given what kind of player he is. This is part of the problem with the B’s trying to deal David Krejci or David Backes this offseason. There are going to be much better, younger players available out there on the trade market like O’Reilly.  

-- Now that the foundation is in place for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the job becomes taking that next step with the Leafs.

-- It sounds like it’s going to be a busy weekend for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers as they have a slew of first-round picks to make on Friday night.

-- It sounds like Dallas isn’t all that pumped about hosting the NHL Draft this weekend. Or maybe they just don’t know it’s going on.

-- For something completely different: Boy, Kevin McHale sure gained some attention this morning after being a very noticeable audience member during yesterday’s Trump speech in Minnesota.

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

The Bruins didn’t take home any hardware at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but appropriately one of their youthful players was recognized among the league’s best and brightest. Rookie D-man Charlie McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team along with New Jersey Devils D-man Will Butcher, forwards (Islanders) Mat Barzal, (Canucks) Brock Boeser and (Coyotes) Clayton Keller and Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros.

The 20-year-old McAvoy finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting as well behind Barzal, Boeser, Keller and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor, but the rookie D-man didn’t get any first-place votes on ballots across the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association). 

Patrice Bergeron finished third in the Selke Trophy voting behind Selke winner Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier while going for his record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy. While it might be a little shocking to see No. 37 finish third based on his season and his overall two-way prowess, he did miss 22 percent of the regular season (18 out of 82 games) and some voters may have dinged him a bit because of that. 

Likewise, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy finished a distant second in the Jack Adams Award voting behind Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. In any other season, Cassidy’s job leading the Bruins to 112 points in his first full year behind the Boston bench would have been a shoo-in for the coaching award. Instead, it deservedly went to Gallant after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a playoff spot and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Don Sweeney also finished fourth in the GM of the Year voting just behind the three finalists for the award, a clear recognition from those around the league for the job he’s done turning things around in Boston over the last few seasons. Zdeno Chara (Norris), David Pastrnak (a first place Lady Byng vote, no less), Bergeron (Byng and Hart Trophy), Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Jake DeBrusk (Calder) and Brad Marchand (Selke and Hart Trophy) all received at least single votes on award ballots in a pretty strong Black and Gold representation across the board. 

A positive thought for all the Bergeron backers that felt he got robbed this season: It was the NHL-record seventh consecutive Selke Trophy finalist appearance for Bergeron on Wednesday night, and there certainly should be several more chances for No. 37 to win again and add to a resume that looks more and more Hall of Fame-worthy with each passing season.

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