One of the hidden bonuses of welcoming backup goaltender Anton Khudobin back into the Bruins fold this season is the unmitigated joy the affable netminder takes to his day-to-day life in the NHL.
It’s tough to tell just how joyful last season was for the 30-year-old goalie when he spent most of his year riding AHL buses with the San Diego Gulls, but Khudobin has been all smiles, jokes and warm sentiment since arriving back in Boston last month after spending three seasons away following a stint with the B’s organization in the middle of the Stanley Cup Era.
“When I got [to Boston] I couldn’t believe [it was] three years gone,” said Khudobin with a big smile. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
So, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise when Khudobin put on a show-and-tell production for assorted Bruins media members last week while showcasing his new goalie mask, custom constructed by Pro’s Choice and painted by Sylabrush out of Montreal.
The mask features the growling bear common to the Bruins goalie masks, and has a giant “DOBBY” emblazoned in big letters at the bottom front of the mask. It also has a feature that only one other goaltender in the NHL (Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy) can boast this season: a sub-zero paint job that changes colors in temperature when Khudobin hops from the warm dressing room to the cold, frozen sheet. Khudobin demonstrated the mask in the Bruins dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena this past week, and showed the formerly white portions of the mask, at the chin and the top of the head, turned jet black once he poured cold water over the mask.
Khudobin actually didn’t even know about the state-of-the-art feature until Sylabrush co-founder Sylvie Marsolais filled him in just prior to his demonstration last week, but he loved it. Then it turned into goalie science experiment time with Mr. Khudobin.
“We've been working with Anton for the past four years and he gave us what he wanted, which was Dobby on the chin, matte and glossy finish combined with his Russian phoenix on the back plate. For the rest, we had freedom to do what we wanted,” said Marsolais. “We looked at all the Bruins logos, and we decided to go with the vintage one with the bear on the forehead with a matte finish.
“Still in matte finish the Bruins ‘B’ logo and the ‘DOBBY’ nickname was incorporated on the chin to add another logo and a more creative feel to it. On the sides we decided to go with what we do best, portraits and realistic [touches]. On the right side we wanted to put what fans see when they go to see a Bruins game: the TD Garden and the Zakim Bridge in a glossy finish to have a contrast. For the left side we wanted to make a realistic mean bear with a glossy finish to make it stand out in a 3-D feel. Anton wasn't aware of this special paint til a couple days ago! It's just to add something more to the design. We are artists, so we always want to innovate and create. When we showed him the video, he said ‘Wow, awesome!’
There’s no competitive advantage to the sub-zero paint changing colors, but everybody in hockey circles knows the glowing pride any goaltender worth their pads takes in the paint job on their masks. So now the Russian netminder has two distinctive things that separate him from nearly all of the other puck-stoppers in the league: the sub-zero changing paint job that turns dark and dangerous when he takes the ice, and the nine-karat gold-plated cage on his mask that only Khudobin and Tuukka Rask boast amid the 60-plus NHL goalies currently doing business.
Now, if both Rask and Khudobin can play as well as they look on the ice, then the Bruins are going to be in very good shape for the balance of this season as they were in 2012-13 with this exact same goalie tandem.
*While a ton of attention has been paid to Jacob Trouba and his contract situation in Winnipeg when it comes to Boston’s never-ending search for a top-four, puck-moving defenseman, don’t sleep on the developing situation with the Anaheim Ducks.
They have roughly $7 million in cap space and a pair of unsigned restricted free agents in Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm with the regular season less than a week away. It certainly could have been worse had they failed to sign Sami Vatanen around July 1, but the expectation is they’re going to need to deal 24-year-old puck-mover Cam Fowler and his $4 million cap hit prior to the season, or more likely early in the season to ease some of the cap gridlock on their roster.
While Fowler clearly isn’t in the class of P.K. Subban or even Adam Larsson, it will be interesting if Bruins GM Don Sweeney can engineer a player-for-player hockey trade with the Ducks with a lower-priced, younger forward going back to Anaheim in return for Fowler.
That’s the kind of player that is definitely on the Bruins radar and the likelihood is much greater of him getting moved before any GM approaches the ransom Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is looking for in dealing away Trouba. If I were a betting man, I’d expect the Bruins to start the season with their current group of D-men and make some evaluations in the early going, with changes coming quickly if they don’t like what they see.
*The Master of Understatement Brad Marchand had the quote of the week when describing his World Cup experience after dominating en route to the championship. He led all players with five goals scored in six games and also signing a big-money, eight-year contract extension with the Bruins in the middle of it, as well: “It went pretty well, I think.” Yes. You could definitely say that, Brad.
*Of the nine multi-point scorers in this preseason for the Bruins, a whopping seven of them are under the age of 24 (Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, David Pastrnak, Colin Miller, Seth Griffith, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen). That’s an excellent info nugget from the tireless Bruins PR staff, now with a couple of solid new hires in Sarah McMahon and Travis Basciotta helping steer things aboard the USS Black and Gold.
*Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.