Bruins

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

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Tuukka Rask not a fan of bubble playoff hockey: 'It's like playing an exhibition game'

Tuukka Rask not a fan of bubble playoff hockey: 'It's like playing an exhibition game'

Tuukka Rask was far from the problem in Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.  

The goalie was beaten on a couple of short side rockets from Carolina snipers Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, and the game-winner for Dougie Hamilton in the third period was a big-league blast after the B’s ran around in their own zone. In all, he stopped 23-of-26 shots, which was a pretty similar performance to Rask stopping 25-of-28 shots in their Game 1 double-overtime win against the Hurricanes.

The .889 save percentage that Rask is sporting after two games against the Hurricanes certainly isn’t anything to write home about.

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But Rask made some strange comments after the loss downplaying the playoff atmosphere inside the Toronto bubble with the empty seats. Rask compared the atmosphere to an exhibition game feel rather than the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is understandable in some ways.

But it’s one thing to bag on the round-robin tournament that had zero meaning for a Bruins team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Rask’s comments on the Game 2 loss really fly in the face of everybody else among the Bruins group working diligently and sacrificing family time to embark on this unusual Cup run.

“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” said Rask. “It’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere out there. You try and play as hard as you can. When you’re playing at a home rink and an away rink and the fans are cheering for and against you, it really creates a buzz for the series.

“There’s none of that. So it just feels like dull at times. There are moments when there are scrums and whatnot, and then there will be five minutes when it’s coast-to-coast hockey. There’s no atmosphere. So it feels like an exhibition game. We’re trying our best to ramp and get energized, and make it feel like it’s a playoff game.”

You can’t ever fault Rask for being honest, and that’s exactly what he’s doing in describing these bubble games when he knows just exciting Stanley Cup Playoff hockey can be during normal times in front of packed NHL arenas. But this really isn’t the kind of less-than-enthusiastic message anybody wants to hear from Boston’s No. 1 goaltender at the start of what the team hopes will be a long, deep run into the postseason.

Maybe somebody on that Bruins team needs to find a way to get the goaltender into more of a playoff mindset that Rask clearly isn’t a couple of games into Boston’s postseason run in this most unusual 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff experience?  

Or maybe, just maybe, Rask needs to get over the dullness of the bubble hockey environment and be like the rest of his Bruins teammates that clearly seem to be on the same page about making the best of their current situation in Toronto.

Either way, it's going to sound like Rask is already cranking up the excuse-making machine just in case the Bruins eventually fall short in the playoffs and further clouds just how important getting a Cup is to him at this point.  

Dougie Hamilton reacts to scoring Game 2 winner vs. former Bruins teammates

Dougie Hamilton reacts to scoring Game 2 winner vs. former Bruins teammates

Every playoff win feels awesome, but for the Carolina Hurricanes, victory in Game 2 of their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Boston Bruins must have felt extra sweet.

For starters, Carolina was pretty upset at the officiating in Boston's Game 1 win Wednesday. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour was particularly angry and blasted the refs and the NHL in his postgame comments, which earned him a $25,000 fine. 

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The 'Canes didn't let their emotions get the best of them, though. The Bruins scored the opening goal in Game 2, but the Hurricanes responded with a tremendous second period that included goals 88 seconds apart. Carolina won the game in the third period when Dougie Hamilton unleashed a rocket of a shot that beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. 

Hamilton, of course, got his start in the NHL with the Bruins when they selected him No. 9 overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. The veteran defenseman played three seasons in Boston before the Original Six club traded him to the Calgary Flames ahead of the 2015 draft. 

What was Hamilton's reaction to scoring the game-winner against his former team? Here's what he told reporters after Game 2:

It's hard to argue with Hamilton on that one.

Hamilton finished with one goal and five shots on net in a team-leading 24:20 of ice time Thursday night. He also blocked five Bruins shots. 

The Hurricanes were swept by the Bruins in last season's Eastern Conference Final, and Hamilton struggled mightily in the series with zero goals and zero assists in the four games. For Carolina to make this series competitive, it needs consistent offensive production from Hamilton, and Game 2 certainly was a step in the right direction for him.