Bruins

Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

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Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin continues his stretch of picking up points in all of his games for the Bruins as he made 27 no-nonsense saves in a straight-up, blue collar kind of hockey game between the B’s and the Kings. Perhaps even more encouraging the Bruins dominated much of the final 20 minutes while protecting a third period lead, so Khudobin was forced into making just five saves against Los Angeles in something a little less than a frenzied, frenetic between the pipes performance that we’re sometimes used to seeing out of the backup. The big period for the Russian backup was the middle 20 minutes when he was making 17 big saves and eventually improving to 4-0-2 on the season while just simply winning all the time these days.  

 

BLACK EYE: Just one shot on net and three giveaways for Anze Kopitar in 22:08 of ice time for the Kings, who did have an assist on Drew Doughty’s power play goal in the second period during the loss. Kopitar had three giveaways in a bit of a sloppy effort taking care of the puck, and he lost 12-of-22 face-offs as well while facing off directly against his Selke Trophy winning competitor in Patrice Bergeron. Kopitar has never been really all that impressive going up against No. 37 over the years, and he hasn’t really been a killer when it comes to facing the Bruins. That sort of thing played out again for the Kings against the Bruins this season with guys like Kopitar and Doughty not quite enough against Boston. 

 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in the first period, and that proved to be one of the big difference-makers in the eventual victory for the Black and Gold. Charlie McAvoy’s early goal put the Bruins on the board and forced the LA Kings to start chasing the game a little bit more in a strange sequence of events that hasn’t been the norm with the Bruins much as of late. Once McAvoy darted in after the offensive zone face-off and scored in the first, the rest was up to a Bruins team that’s managed to score the first goal of the game for just the seventh time in 18 games this season. Given the real lack of depth on the roster for the B’s due to injuries, it’s vital to take an early lead and force the Kings, or any other opponent, to respect their game plan a little bit more armed with an early lead.    

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy was a beast for the Bruins while topping 27 minutes of ice time, scoring the game’s first goal in the first period and not depriving himself of any of the physical play over the 60-minute course of the game. It was McAvoy that took the puck in a win on an offensive zone face-off, and darted straight to the front of the net where he was able to lift a backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick for the early goal. It was his second goal of the season, and his first score since lighting the lamp on opening night vs. Nashville. Above and beyond that McAvoy had a goal and a plus-1 rating in 27:53 of ice time, and filled out the dirty work portion of his job description with four blocked shots and four registered hits to go along with his skill contributions. 

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the alarming number of giveaways for Zdeno Chara in the win while also registering the game-winning goal in the second period amongst his 26:53 of ice time on the second night of a back-to-back game.  Chara was obviously far from perfect, but he was digging deep for the win. 

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “No passengers. I think everybody pulled on the rope today. A lot of guys blocked shots and took hits to make plays, and that’s what it took.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on what the difference was in Thursday night’s win over the LA Kings. 

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

There are a couple of inalienable facts about next year’s goaltending situation with the Boston Bruins.

The first is that the B’s have most definitely upgraded in that area with 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak as the backup to Tuukka Rask. Halak is a flat-out better goalie than Anton Khudobin, and should be a little more consistent than the Russian backup, who was admittedly excellent last season while racking up a 16-6-7 record as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

Halak, on the other hand, has won less than 18 games in a season only twice in his 10 full seasons at the NHL level, and has been a starter with the Canadiens, Blues, Capitals and Islanders with a career .916 save percentage over his NHL career. In case anybody hadn’t noticed that’s also been Tuukka Rask’s save percentage over the last three seasons for the Bruins.

Which brings us to inalienable goaltending fact No. 2: Halak is going to push Rask like he hasn’t been challenged since truly taking over as the top goalie in Boston.

The last truly competitive situation with Rask between the B’s pipes was in 2011-12 in Tim Thomas’ last season with the Bruins when the Finnish goaltender was backing up a reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Rask had temporarily taken Thomas’ job away from him two years prior during the 2009-10 season when he was a rookie goalie, and that sparked the best season of Thomas’ NHL career where he led the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup victory.

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Since then Rask has had “just another guys” like Chad Johnson, Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson and Anton Khudobin backing him up, and none of those backups had the kind of juice to truly take Rask’s job away from him. The best Khudobin could do was start four straight games for the Bruins back in November of last season, and that turned out to be one of the turning points in a 112-point campaign where Rask was significantly motivated from that point onward.

Halak could legitimately get on a hot streak in the regular season and force the Bruins coaching staff to sit Rask for weeks, or even a month, at a time, and that’s something no backup has ever been able to do behind Boston’s Franchise Finn. That should be a good thing and that is something the B’s are already counting on to happen for next season.

“We’ve talked about internal competition. Maybe it puts Tuukka in a better mindset. There were nights when Tuukka [played] back-to-backs. That’s a lot of stress on the goaltender knowing… I think two years ago we didn’t have a win by our backup at Christmas time,” said Don Sweeney, on July 1 after signing Halak to a two-year contract. “I’m not sure you guys wrote about it, but I did, and I lost sleep about it.

“I think we have two guys that have carried the ball for their teams, [and] that will push each other, that will complement each other, and we feel good that now going in every night. That is an area we aren’t going to be concerned about, hopefully. Obviously, it’s [about] the performance now.”

Now here’s the fork in the road where the inalienable Bruins goaltending facts and some good, old-fashioned speculation go their separate ways.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.

In fact, only Montreal is spending more money on goaltending than the Bruins this season thanks to the awful Carey Price contract, and – along with the Bruins -- only the Panthers, Canadiens and Avalanche are paying north of $9 million in cap space for their goalies next season. For a Bruins team that was just barely in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage and where the goaltending wasn’t really a demonstrable strength in the playoffs, that feels like a lot.  

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Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.

But even after all that rest and being given the high maintenance treatment, Rask still responded with a shaky postseason that was the worst statistically of his career. The 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage were the worst playoff marks of his NHL career, and Rask was an absolute disaster in their Game 7 showdown with the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins hadn’t completely shut down Toronto in the first half of the third period where they didn’t allow a shot on net (and didn’t allow Rask to even be a factor in the balance of that game), they probably wouldn’t have even advanced beyond the first round prior to their second round smack-down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rask was better in the second round vs. Tampa and added to his career highlight reel when he angrily fired a broken skate blade at the boards, but there are still some of the very same, nagging questions about Boston’s top goalie when it comes to big games.   

So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.

Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.  

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