While Tuukka Rask looks to get a bulk of the action in this shortened 48-game season, the play of backup goalie Anton Khudobin will be critical in the Bruins success this season. If Khudobin can provide relief of Rask and play well, the Bruins will have the option of limiting Rask’s minutes down the stretch before the playoffs. If Khudobin struggles, Tuukka will be asked to burden a heavier load as April comes around. Let’s take a look at Khudobin’s 2013 Bruins debut against Carolina.
Khudobin has been very impressive in his very limited roles with the Minnesota Wild for brief parts of two seasons and in his one game with the B’s last season. Coming into the 2013 season, Khudobin had a career record of 5-1 with a 1.32 GAA and an equally impressive .962 save percentage. Anton’s night got off to a rough start when at 1:40 of the 1st period, he mistakenly dragged the puck through the trapezoid resulting in an early power play for the Canes. The B’s escaped damage thanks to their otherworldly penalty killing unit and a nice save off a deflection by Jordan Staal. He also made a nice read on a tough shot by Jamie McBain. Carolina got on the board against Khudobin on a tip shot from a charging to the net McBain, at the time cutting the B’s lead to 2-1. He stopped a flurry of activity led by Drayson Bowman to keep the lead at 2-1 at the end of the 1st.
In the 2nd period Khudobin made his most impressive save of the game when he snared a low drive by Staal while the B’s were two men short. He gave up two goals late in the period, mostly due to defensive breakdowns by the B’s. Jeff Skinner got some space and skated in on the right side and beat Anton short side and up. Later, off a very rare mistake and turnover by Chris Kelly in his own zone, Erik Staal was sent in clean right in front of Khudobin and beat him five-hole to tie the game at 3-3. The B’s protected fairly well in the 3rd and Anton played a clean period. The late game flurry never really materialized after the Canes picked up a quick penalty after the B’s had taken a 4-3 lead. With the goalie pulled and teams essentially skating 5 on 5, Khudobin made one nice save on Skinner but otherwise was not challenged as Seguin added an empty net goal for the 5-3 final.
Khudobin showed a tendency to stay deep in his crease throughout the game (early game mishandle not withstanding). He could have challenged Staal on the third goal and tried to poke check but stayed deep. He also stayed deep on Staal’s slap shot in the 2nd with the Canes up two men, but he dropped at just the right time and picked off his shin level shot for his best save of the night. He handled the puck well when he did come out of the crease with the exception of the penalty early. There were no spectacular stops to be had but the Bruins system protects their net minders in most cases. Look for Khudobin to get additional playing time as the schedule gets busier and as Claude Julien becomes more confident is his ability.
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