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. But his original plan had Tuukka Rask making the start on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan getting his second start for the Bruins on Sunday night against Buffalo.
Julien 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 good 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. Hes not going to get rusty but hes not going to change anything either.
He just looks really comfortable in net for us. I dont know if its the way guys are playing in front of him, but hes just gobbling pucks up and leaving nothing behind. Hes 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.
It was great, you know? I pretty much got a little rest in the second and third period, said Khudobin. I didnt 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. 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 didnt 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.
BRIGHTON -- The Bruins took Wednesday off and returned Thursday with assurances they weren’t thinking about history repeating itself for a third straight season.
The easy parallels are there, of course.
The Bruins lost 9 of their final 14 games and missed the playoffs by a point two years ago. Last season they went a pathetic 3-8-1 in the final 12 games and once again missed the postseason by a single point.
So their recent three-game losing streak has set off some warning bells and whistles, as has the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs have passed them and pushed the B’s into the second wild-card position. Boston holds a slim two-point lead over the New York Islanders for that final playoff position, and is facing huge games against the Tampa Bay Lightning (tonight) and the Isles (Saturday).
So with all that in mind, has interim coach Bruce Cassidy’s message changed at all to his players?
“These are teams [close to the Bruins to the standings, so the games] get more magnified and rightfully so,” said Cassidy. “We accept that and we know what’s at stake. The last two didn’t go the way we wanted them to, but the things we do well, we need to keep doing well. We’ve created some looks at the net. We’re generating some offense. We need to finish a little better, and those pockets of the game that get away from us . . . we need to minimize those. We had a few too many of those [moments] against Ottawa.
“We’re aware of it. We know who won and who lost last night. But we need to take care of our business. If we do, we’ll be fine. We really will. If we take of our business, it doesn’t matter what this team does or what that team does.
"That’s a fact. That’s the message. It’s quite simple. If we take care of business, we’ll be fine. If we don’t, then we’re hoping.”
Clearly taking care of their business includes dispatching both the Lightning and the Islanders. Hoping is what the Bruins ended up doing in each of the previous two seasons, and it left them fully out of luck once the music stopped.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while having never said “break a leg” for good luck to fellow Stoneham, Mass., native Nancy Kerrigan on social media, or otherwise.
*A brief video history of Sidney Crosby spearing, or otherwise targeting, opponents in the crotches prepared with care and thought by the Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski.
*Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts for the week and a few of them centered around new Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
*Could the NBA’s star-resting phenomenon reach into the NHL when it comes to getting in-season time off for the superstars?
*Give the Leafs credit because they picked up coach Mike Babcock when he made a rare screw-up against the Blue Jackets.
*Check out the sick USA/Russia skating kicks on Alex Ovechkin, who had them custom made for a charity event.
*Speaking of Ovechkin, could T.J. Oshie and not Ovechkin actually lead the Capitals in scoring this season?
*For something completely different: Hide the women and children, the Scorpions and Megadeath are going on a North American tour together.