Bruins

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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Talking Points: Bruins better, but not good enough vs. McDavid & Oilers

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Talking Points: Bruins better, but not good enough vs. McDavid & Oilers

Here are my biggest takeaways from the Bruins' 3-2 overtime loss in Edmonton on Thursday night:

GOLD STAR: Connor McDavid was held down early in this game, but made the play when it counted in overtime. McDavid picked off a Brad Marchand stretch pass from deep in the Bruins zone during the 3-on-3 overtime, and then moved into the B’s zone with speed before dishing over to Leon Draisaitl for the game-winner in overtime.

In all, McDavid finished with two assists along with eight shot attempts in 24:58 of ice time, one hit, three takeaways and a blocked shot in the home opening win for the Oilers. McDavid certainly didn’t explode on the Bruins with a massive statistical night, but it’s easy to see why putting McDavid and Draisaitl out together for the 3-on-3 overtime session eventually turns into a lot of wins for the Oilers. It took less than a minute for that duo to do their damage in OT on Thursday night.

BLACK EYE: David Backes finished with zero shots on net in 6:28 of ice time after taking a high hit from Matt Benning in the first period that sent him back to the dressing room. Backes returned to the bench for the second period, but clearly wasn’t actually on the ice much for the Bruins following the first period. It looked like there might have been contact to the head/chin area for Backes, and that’s not good for a player that’s missed time over the last few seasons with concussions. Beyond the production for Thursday night’s game, Backes still has zero goals and zero points through seven games this season and continues to look like a player that’s really not going to be able to give the Bruins what they need out of him. For now, though, it’s about Backes’ health and the hope that he comes out of the collision with Benning unscathed.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins fell down 2-1 in the third period on a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins power play goal in the third period, and it could have been one of those moments where they started to let things fall apart in the second night of back-to-back games. Instead, the B’s scratched and clawed their way to tie the game on another David Pastrnak goal midway through the third period to push things into overtime eventually. That allowed the Bruins to at least capture a point for their trouble, and salvage something amid a road trip that’s already proven to be pretty difficult for the Black and Gold. Things fell apart quickly for them in the overtime session, but by that point the one point was already in the bank for the Bruins.

HONORABLE MENTION: It was a pretty good night for David Krejci as he continues to show that he’s finding his game a few weeks into the season, and starting to give the Bruins the secondary scoring they absolutely need. Krejci scored going to the net on a sweet lead pass from Matt Grzelcyk, and has started connecting on a few more offensive plays for a team that’s going to need it from them. He finished with over 20 minutes of ice time, had the goal along with a plus-1 rating, five shot attempts and 7-of-12 face-off wins in a very good all-around effort. Perhaps the Bruins will stick with Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk with Krejci now on the second line, after seeing some good offensive results, and more importantly seeing some life out of the playmaking Krejci’s game.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the game-high number of registered hits for Chris Wagner, as he continues to set a tone physically for the Bruins when he’s out on the ice.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “A good rebound game. We definitely played better hockey. It wasn’t a very good second period, but the first and the third periods were good. We battled our way back in and got a point, so definitely a better game than [against Calgary].” –Brad Marchand to reporters, on the B’s playing better in an OT loss to Edmonton than they did the previous night against Calgary.  

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Highlights from Bruins' 3-2 OT loss to Oilers

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Highlights from Bruins' 3-2 OT loss to Oilers

FINAL SCORE: Oilers 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

IN BRIEF: Just 37 seconds into the extra frame, Connor McDavid intercepted a Patrice Bergeron breakout pass in the neutral zone and fed Leon Draisaitl on the rush for a thrilling win over Boston. BOX SCORE 

THREE STARS
1 - Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton (1 goal)
2 - Milan Lucic, Edmonton
3 - David Pastrnak, Boston (1 goal)

BRUINS RECORD: 4-2-1, third in Atlantic Division

EDMONTON'S OT WINNER WAS A BEAUT

KREJCI NETS FIRST GOAL OF 2018-19

LUCKY? YOU BE THE JUDGE

OLD TIME HOCKEY

EXTRA SWEET SAUCE FOR PASTA

UP NEXT

SATURDAY: At Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET (NESN)

TUESDAY: At Ottawa, 7:30 ET (NESN)

THURSDAY: Vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 ET (NESN)

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

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