Khudobin pushing Rask with another strong, winning performance

Khudobin pushing Rask with another strong, winning performance
March 22, 2013, 10:15 am
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KANATA, ON –- Things just got a little interesting in the Bruins goaltending rotation with the developments in each of the last two games.

Tuukka Rask let up a rebound on a Grant Clitsome shot for an eventual Evander Kane game-winning goal in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and then Claude Julien called his starting goaltender out on NESN immediately afterward while saying that’s a save his team needs to have. Julien follows up by plugging 26-year-old backup goaltender Anton Khudobin into the lineup against the Ottawa Senators, and the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan stopped 27 quality shots en route to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Scotiabank Place.

After playing three games in January and February, Khudobin has played five games in the month of March and has won four of those contests with a 1.80 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. The B’s backup goalie not so surprisingly says the extra playing time has helped him tune up his game.

“For a goalie it’s always great to play more and more. Like I was saying earlier all the time if coach gives me a chance to play then it’s great,” said Khudobin. “But if not then I have to get ready. For a goalie the more you play the better it’s going to be for you."

“I felt at the start of the season I didn’t feel the way I do now, but guys helped me a lot. Coaches and my [goaltending] partner helped me a lot.”

Khudobin was particularly good at the end of each period when a frenzied Ottawa attack tried to throw everything they had at the Boston net. Kyle Turris, Jakob Silfverberg and Patrick Weircioch were all stopped in succession during one major shift at the end of the first period to protect a scoreless tie, Silfverberg was stymied again in the second when a shot bounced off the shaft of his paddle and Mika Zibanejad was stopped in the third with a bid to send things into overtime.

“It’s always important to make those strong saves,” said Khudobin. “You don’t give up rebounds, and guys are going to feel good and then play offensively. We have to learn from [the third period losses] and continue to play this way. It’s always more fun to have a ‘W’ than a loss.”

Julien didn’t view it as a situation where Khudobin is beginning to push Rask just a little bit, but it’s hard not to look at it that way given that the backup goaltender is pushing for more starts and more shared playing time with his Finnish partner.

“I think he was good and we’ve had no complaints about [Khudobin] all year,” said Julien. “He was solid. He played a great game in this building last year and he played another good one tonight."

“Right now it’s not so much pushing anyone [for playing time] even though I think that’s a good thing. It’s about having two quality goaltenders and keeping them as fresh as you can . . . as sharp as you can. If you have that combination like I think Ottawa has and other teams around the league have, then you’re giving your team a better chance.”

That was the right thing said by Julien at the proper moment after a good win backstopped by Khudobin, but it will be telling to see which goaltender gets the call against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. If Khudobin gets the back-to-back starts then it might be notice served to Rask that playing time is going to start getting meted out on a merit-based system by the Bruins coaching staff given the way the two goaltenders have been playing as late.