It was an open question the past few months as to whether the Bruins were going to go outside their organization for any backup goaltending help. It appears that question has been answered. All of the goalies that served Boston as backups to Tuukka Rask last season will be back this year.
Anton Khudobin is expected to return as the backup to Rask after an up-and-down season in his return to Boston and both Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban will be back in the mix after each signing two-year, two-way deals with the Bruins on Friday. Both contracts are worth $650,000 at the NHL level and could presumably lead to one of them being Rask’s backup two years from now if they can separate from the pack with their level of play.
“We feel very comfortable, as I’ve said before, if [the] Anton Khudobin, who played in Long Island and Chicago came back through [the doors]. I don’t think anyone’s questioning whether or not we have ample goaltending,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “The two players underneath in Zane [McIntyre] and Malcolm [Subban] need to take another step and push in that area. I would like Anton to walk through the door the same guy that played in those two games in particular.”
The bottom line is that one of these three goalies needs to step up and show the kind of quality play to allow Rask enough rest to be effective as the No. 1 goalie. It’s become very clear in recent seasons that Rask loses effectiveness when he’s pushed into a workload that’s too heavy and needs a backup who can play somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 games in support of him.
Last season, Khudobin, 31, played just 16 games and went 7-6-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. He needed several trips to the AHL in the first half before finally getting his game together following the Bruins coaching change. McIntyre was 0-4-1 in his first taste of the NHL with a 3.97 GAA and .858 save percentage while Subban, 23, was once again a disaster in the NHL, where he was pulled from his only appearance after letting up three goals.
McIntyre, 24, might be the one that eventually emerges as the understudy to Rask after showing some impressive ability for the P-Bruins. McIntyre appeared in 31 games for Providence last season, going 21-6-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .930 save percentage. McIntyre led the AHL in save percentage and ranked second in GAA. He appeared in the AHL All-Star game and bounced between the AHL and NHL at midseason.
BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.
Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.
Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:
Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:
Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:
The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:
A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?
It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.
“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”
As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps.
BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well.
It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.
“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.
“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”
At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.