Khudobin making a name for himself with second win

Khudobin making a name for himself with second win
February 11, 2013, 2:30 pm
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(Associated Press)

BUFFALO – Claude Julien might have raised an eyebrow or two with his choice to start Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin against a divisional opponent in Buffalo after three straight off days. The Bruins coach could have changed his mind when the snow wiped out Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Julien originally had Tuukka Rask making the start on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan getting his second start of the season for the Bruins on Sunday night against Buffalo.

But the B's coach decided to stick with his original goaltending plan to start Khudobin on Sunday night, and then come back with Rask Tuesday at home against a talented, top-heavy New York Rangers club. It showed a reassuring level of confidence in Khudobin when the Bruins easily could have slid Rask into the open spot and just kept on riding the hot Finnish goaltender.

“We were looking at the back-to-back games and Tuukka was supposed to play [on Saturday] night,” said Claude Julien. “But you know what? [Khudobin] is a good goaltender. At one point it just gives Tuukka Rask a little more. He’s not going to get rusty but he’s not going to change anything either.

“He just looks really comfortable in net for us. I don’t know if it’s the way guys are playing in front of him, but he’s just gobbling pucks up and leaving nothing behind. He’s a very good goaltender.”

Well, give the Bruins a big check mark in the ‘good idea” department. All Khudobin did was stop 25 pucks while looking poised and professional between the pipes and leading the Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Clearly the Bruins rebounded nicely in the defensive zone while making life so much easier in front of their goaltender, and only one complete Dougie Hamilton breakdown in the defensive end left the blemish of one Buffalo goal. Hamilton turned a puck over in the defensive zone, and then failed to cover the net on Tyler Ennis' goal for the Sabres.

Otherwise Khudobin was up to the task behind a Bruins defense that seemed to be proving a point.

“It was great, you know? I pretty much got a little rest in the second and third period,” said Khudobin. “I didn’t do much. I just had to stop a couple of saves and pretty much make sure that we keep it scoreless.”

Khudobin is now 2-0-0 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average in two starts this season, and has the full confidence of his Bruins teammates whenever Rask needs a night off. Over the course of nine career games Khudobin is now 7-1 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .954 save percentage.

His counterpart at the other end of the ice, Ryan Miller, was forced into making the flashier saves with 38 total shots as Khudobin rested in complete victory.

The focus will rightly rest on Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron doing an effective job neutralizing Thomas Vanek and a Buffalo offensive attack that didn’t have much of a motor playing their third game in four nights.

But Khudobin is becoming a real find for the Bruins and a legitimate NHL goaltender that just needed a chance to establish himself. Now the 26-year-old can find out exactly how good he can really be at the NHL level after knocking on the door for the last few years.