Just over a year ago Anton Khudobin had lost the confidence of former Bruins coach Claude Julien and was sent down to the AHL. He had logged almost two months between NHL starts, yet coincidentally was recalled from Providence once Julien was shown the door.
And with that move Khudobin’s starts down the stretch, with Tuukka dealing with a nagging injury at the time, vaulted the Bruins into the playoffs. Remember that must-win start Khudobin made last spring against the New York Islanders when Tuukka didn’t travel with the team? Dobby gave up just 1 goal in the win.
At the time new Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy gave Khudobin an opportunity to play in 8 games over the last two months of the season. Khudobin went 6-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average during that stretch.
Dobby has not looked back since Cassidy has taken over the bench in Boston.
He earned the backup job in the preseason and has been fantastic all year, if not the best backup in the NHL. Remember those 4 straight early season starts he had where it gave Tuukka a rest and a big kick in the pants? Tuukka has been the best goalie in the NHL since.
Yes, Tuukka’s game has slipped a little bit the past week or so. He is now dealing with another nagging minor injury that will see Khudobin get his second straight start tonight against the Red Wings. We should all still feel comfortable with relief Khudobin can provide.
Without those 4 games off early in the season and the push from Khudobin, Tuukka probably does not go on the run that he did. Bruce Cassidy could not have played that situation any better. He pushed the right button at the right time, with trust in his backup, and now the Bruins are one of the best teams in the NHL with a confident 1-2 goalie punch.
I know this is an eye rolling stretch to most, but behind Patrice Bergeron, Khudobin could be considered this team’s MVP for the job he’s done in his role. He has exceeded expectations. He has started 22 games (played in 24) which leaves Tuukka to start a max of 60 games. That number is going to be close to the ideal 55 because Khudobin is going to get another 5 or 6 starts. The Bruins play almost every other day for the rest of the season and they have 2 more back to back games. Khudobin is 14-4-4 with a 2.34 goals against average and an impressive .921 save percentage.
Khudobin will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Before the season I would have said Khudobin will not be back in 2018-19 and the backup job will go to Zane McIntyre. Maybe that is still the case. Just based on the season Khudobin is having he may get a nice contract from another team that the Bruins cannot match. But it would make sense for the Bruins to try to bring Khudobin back for the internal competition for both Tuukka and for McIntyre.
McIntyre has turned his slow to start AHL season around. He is sporting a 2.43 GAA and a .914 save percentage. The more impressive stat is McIntyre has 6 shutouts and lately they seem to be coming almost every other night.
Fans can vote for NESN 7th player award and I would assume Khudobin is going to be in the mix for the award. He may not win it because this is a fan vote and he is not the most popular player being the backup goalie, but he has earned my vote. Without Khudobin’s reliability and 14 wins this Bruins team would look much different. And he’s about to prove once again how true that is.
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