BOSTON – The Bruins certainly have some question marks on their roster — namely the third line and third defensive pairing — but at least one of the questions they faced entering the season appears to be answered. Anton Khudobin has proven that he is perfectly capable of being the backup goalie the Bruins need.
Everyone knew the starting job now belonged to Tuukka Rask, and there wasn’t really any doubt that he was ready for that role. He already had very good numbers in his NHL career, and he has continued to play at a high level this season.
The question was whether or not Khudobin, who had just seven games of NHL experience before this season, was ready to be a legitimate NHL backup. He didn’t need to be as great of a backup as Rask was for Tim Thomas, but with the condensed schedule, the Bruins would need him to at least be dependable on nights they wanted to give Rask some rest.
So far, Khudobin has been up to the task. After stopping 25 of 27 shots in Thursday’s 4-2 win over Toronto, Khudobin is now 4-1-0 with a 2.42 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
“It’s huge,” Brad Marchand said of Khudobin’s play. “We need Doby to play well. Tuukks is going to need his rest. You have to have a goalie you can count on to back him up. With the way Doby’s stepping in here and playing very well, we’re all happy for him. We’re definitely confident when he’s in the net.”
Khudobin also picked up a win over Tampa on Saturday. He got off to a bit of a tough start in that game, as he tried to shake off the rust from not playing in two weeks, but then he started to play great and kept the Bruins in a game that they eventually came back to win.
On Thursday, Khudobin didn’t have to shake off any rust. He was on his game right from the opening faceoff, as evidenced by a great save he made on Tyler Bozak midway through the first period. A shot from the point went wide, but the puck caromed right back to Bozak at the side of the crease. Khudobin reacted in time to get his right leg out and make the stop, though.
Another big save came early in the second when David Krejci turned the puck over in the offensive zone, leading to a rush the other way — the same setup that led to the Maple Leafs’ first goal minutes earlier. Khudobin bailed Krejci out, though, as he gloved Nikolai Kulemin’s shot from the right circle.
“That’s what you want to get from your backup goaltender,” said coach Claude Julien. “He played well tonight. Their second goal, you could see he was mad. He felt he should have had it. But he made some real good saves throughout the whole game. I thought he was solid. It certainly makes our team feel better when you know no matter who you put in net, they’re going to give you a solid performance.”
Thursday’s win was important for Khudobin not just because it provided another example that he can give Rask a breather, but because it showed that he can be used at pretty much any time.
Prior to Thursday, all of Khudobin’s starts had come when the Bruins had been playing well in the week or so leading up to that game. The Bruins entered Thursday’s game on a two-game losing streak, though. Obviously the win doesn’t mean Khudobin will be the Bruins’ stopper the next time they lose two in a row, but it does mean that he has the ability to do more than just keeping a winning streak going.
“Honestly, we were confident in both of [our goalies],” said Patrice Bergeron. “We knew Tuukks was going to do the job, but also we knew that Anton was a good goalie and he was going be able to come in and just be a solid backup like he is right now. Tonight was a good example. We lost two games and he’s coming in and making some big saves for us in the first period, keeping us in the game and then we took the lead.”