RALEIGH, NC As far as season debuts go, it was a performance worthy of Kazakhstans No. 1 goaltender.
Anton Khudobin didnt soar off to the best of starts when he was slapped with a delay of game penalty for stepping outside the trapezoid to play a loose puck 90 seconds into the game.
After that Khudobin did everything in his power as a puck-stopper to support the Bruins in a position to win.
The 26-year-old netminder didnt let in a single bad goal in the Bruins 5-3 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena, and executed all the saves in the first two periods when the Carolina skaters were exerting heavy pressure in the Boston zone. Each of the three goals allowed came after a defensive breakdown in front of him or a careless turnover that led to immediate offensive chances.
In either instance it was the skaters in front of him that shouldered the blame for goals scored by Jamie McBain, Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal. Khudobin said he felt completely comfortable after a few flurries early in the seesaw game. In the end it helped him make 29 saves on the evening and ensure that the Bruins goaltending tandem is off to a very impressive beginning.
I felt comfortable after getting a couple of the shots there in the first period. Then you get into a mindset where you stop one, and then you stop the next one, said Khudobin. Its always good. It was a good win and its always good to win.
Its always about the W first and then the stats after that. Of course stats are always good too to help you move on, but Im just happy to get the win.
Khudobins best save probably came in the first period when Jiri Tlusty found a cutting Jamie McBain on a backdoor play during one of Carolinas five power plays. But the Bs goaltender pushed from post-to-post while squaring up for a shot that ultimately caught him in the chest.
That was a pretty good shot, said Khudobin. But making that save gives you confidence and gives your teammates confidence.
He snagged a long Eric Staal shot from the high point with a confident glove in the second period, and backstopped a Bruins penalty kill that went a perfect five-for-five on the evening. Claude Julien lauded the work of the young goaltender in only his second career appearance with the Bruins, which was all the more impressive after sitting and watching Tuukka Rask over the first nine days of the season.
Dobbie made some good saves, but we also had some very good penalty kill work, said Claude Julie. He was poised. I thought he did a great job. For me hes a guy that you watch in practice and you watch in the games, and hes two different guys. He was like that last year. Some guys are like that: game goaltenders rather than practice goaltenders.
He seemed focused and ready this morning. He was excited about playing, and they knew it was his first start so they were throwing everything at him. But he faced the shots and did a great job.
Most impressive of all: Khudobin is now 6-1 in eight career NHL appearances with a goals against average hovering around 1.25 and a .962 save percentage that scream out NHL-caliber goalie.
Its only been one game, but it looks like the Bruins are going to be in good hands for the 15-18 games the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan will play for the Black and Gold in a season where backup goaltenders could play an extremely vital role.