Haggerty: Khudobin proves plenty in Bruins debut

Haggerty: Khudobin proves plenty in Bruins debut

OTTAWA Anton Khudobin is a little more well-known in the Bruins dressing room than one might have originally thought.

He materialized out of the minor leagues in Minnesota last season and dominated in four games with the Wild before getting traded to Boston and that was on the mind of former Wild teammate Greg Zanon. The rugged defenseman was expecting nothing less when the native of Kazakhstan debuted for the Black and Gold Thursday night at Scotiabank Place, and he wasnt disappointed.

I wasnt worried at all, said Zanon when asked if he worried about doing anything extra to protect the young goalie in his first start with the Bruins. I know Khudobin from Minnesota and he played three or four big games for us last year. Same sort of situation and he came in and stole the show.

If he sees the puck or if any of our goaltenders see the puck theyre going to stop it. Thats what weve been working on over the last 11 games: clearing out the lanes so the goalies can get a view and then clearing the puck away from the net.
Perhaps even Zanon slightly arched an eyebrow when Khudobin stopped 44 pucks en route to a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place, and won his first game with Boston. More importantly it set everybody in the Bruins organization at ease should Tuukka Rask be unable to start the postseason as Bostons backup goaltender due to a groinabdomen strain.

Khudobin admitted he was a little surprised the nervous butterflies waited to hit him until just before the game started, but perhaps that wasnt such a bad thing. The 25-year-old wasnt fazed at all by the 17 shots he faced right out of the starting gate in the first period. Instead he seemed to make every single save in the book.

Khudobin stuffed Daniel Alfredsson at the right post on a wraparound attempt early in the game, he twice stoned Nick Foligno on hot shots from point blank range, and he snapped away at an Alfredsson sizzling shot in the third period with his quick glove hand.

Khudobin certainly had his favorite save afterwards.

There were good, smart shots. They know where to put the puck and shooting through guys legs and stuff, said Khudobin. I was trying to just pick up the shots to see where they came from.

That last shot on Alfredsson? I think that was pretty good save.

He was clearly a little lucky too.

All-World defenseman and Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson had a wide open one-timer at a vacant net on an odd-man rush with six minutes to go in the third period, but the young blueliner fired wide left with his shot. It was a rare misstep offensively for the ridiculously talented Karlsson, and it was a costly one for Ottawa as well. Less than two minutes later, Milan Lucic buried an insurance goal for the Bruins that saddled the Sens with bitter defeat, and kept the option alive that Boston could face either Ottawa or Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

The only goal to elude Khudobin was hardly the affable goaltenders fault. Jason Spezza fired a shot from the slot area that bounced off the back of Andrew Ferences ankle, hit the far post and then caromed off Khudobins left leg before settling in the back of the net. It was a true pinball goal, and otherwise Khudobin left plenty for his teammates and coaches to rave about.

There was no doubt he was our best player tonight. It was nice to see because hes been playing well in Providence. Theres an opportunity he may start with us in the playoffs if Tuukka isnt ready, said Claude Julien. He just proved that hes a good goaltender. He was very deserving of the accolades because if it werent for him the score might have been very different.

He moved well and he found pucks. There were times when he was screened, but he found the puck and put his body in front of it. Its not about flashy saves. Its about making the saves, and his body was in front of the puck all night. They couldnt get anything through him.

If something should happen to Tim Thomas in the first round of the playoffs with Rask unready to resume as the backup goaltender, Khudobin handed his new teammates the kind of confidence that hell rise to the occasion.

It was the first time Ive seen him play. He played really, really well and was especially good in the first period, said Milan Lucic. He was definitely our first star out there tonight.

Even better Khudobin gave the Bs a glimpse of what could be in store for Boston next season.

With Rask entering restricted free agency and the Bs wondering what to do with Thomas in the final year of his contract with Boston, Khudobin has a one-way contract next year that should land him Boston or elsewhere in the NHL. That was a big consideration in him coming back to the Bruins rather than opting for the big bucks of the KHL prior to this season.

I was thinking that I hadnt played three full years in the AHL, so I thought that Id play one year in the AHL, said Khudobin. Obviously my contract is different next year, so Ill get to the next level.

Things didnt go completely by plan for the Bruins or their No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan when he was hurt while Rask went with injury last month, but one auspicious debut has brought Khudobin full-circle to where he needs to be.

His Herculean effort between the pipes against the Senators was simply another reminder that hell be helping somebody in the NHL whether its in Boston or somewhere else.

With one fell swoop Khudobin has proven hes so much more than the simple punch line to some trite Qdoba joke.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the 76ers in Philadelphia. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App.  Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Road has been kind to Celtics lately 

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”