It’s not been an easy season for Boston Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin. Thankfully, the Kazakh netminder is finally playing the way the B’s need him to.
The Boston Bruins haven’t had much help in the goaltending department this season. Anton Khudobin was injured early in the season. Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban both tried to fill in, but neither did very well at the NHL-level. When Khudobin did return to the ice, the results weren’t very good.
The lack of depth in net gave the B’s no choice but to run Tuukka Rask ragged. As the season wore on his numbers (once worthy of Vezina consideration) began to slip. Don Sweeney took a lot of pressure from the media and the fans over the lack of a quality netminder to help Rask. The B’s tried to find someone to fill in, but that almost always led to lost games.
In order to help Khudobin find his game, the Bruins sent him down to Providence for a while. Claude Julien couldn’t find a use for him. The B’s started falling in the standings, and that led Sweeney to make a coaching change.
Bruce Cassidy took over the as head coach two weeks ago. The new Bruins bench boss decided that Khudobin was necessary if the B’s were going to make the playoffs. That meant Khudobin spent extra time with Bruins goaltending coach (and emergency backup goaltender) Bob Essensa and try to find away to turn his season around.
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Cassidy has played Khudobin twice since taking over on February 7. In both cases, he’s been able to win. Khudobin’s stats under Cassidy are much improved. He’s 2-0, with a .933 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average.
“I had another opportunity to play, so it’s always great,” said Khudobin of his recent victories. “As I always say, it’s always great when you’re winning, and it always [stinks] when you’re losing, so no matter how you play, good or bad, you always want to win, that’s the final result. So but confidence is good, I need still to keep working hard, and keep going, keep going.”
Khudobin’s looking like a legitimate backup goaltender again. While his overall numbers still don’t look that great (3-5-1, 2.84 goals-against, and a .896 save percentage), he’s playing with confidence and skill just when the Bruins need him to.
Last night’s win helped the Bruins go 2-1 in their California roadtrip. Those four points could be the difference that helps get the team in the playoffs in April. Last year, the Bruins lost all three games in California, and that came back to haunt them at the end of the season.
Bruce Cassidy is certainly pleased with Dobby’s performance.
“I thought he was very good against Vancouver, it was a wide open game, but in this atmosphere – he seems to be finding his game,” offered Cassidy on Khudobin’s recent return to form. “That’s two in a row he’s given us a chance to win and that’s what you want out of your goaltending, and listen, we’re like every other team, we need good goaltending to prosper, and we got it.”
“We had our share of breakdowns, there’s no doubt, and he was there for us,” said Cassidy. “Again, that’s what you want and he responded very well and it’s good for his confidence. He’s worked hard to find his game.”