By: Tyler Aragao
At 5'11 Anton Khudobin is one of three goaltenders in the NHL below 6'0. But despite the height disadvantage, Khudobin has been providing the Bruins with a major advantage in goal through the early portion of the 2017-18 season.
At 7-0-2, Anton Khudobin has gotten the Bruins 16 of their 24 points on the season, he has yet to lose in regulation, and has come up large this season while Tuukka Rask has struggled to find his game.
Khudobin's hot start has seen him amongst the likes of Sergei Bobrovksy, Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He's third in the league in save percentage and fourth in goals against. While Bobrovsky and Crawford have both played more games than Khudobin this season for the Bruins seeing their backup posting numbers close to that of the reigning Vezina winner is a sight for sore eyes.
For the Bruins the backup goaltender postion has been a weakness since Chad Johnson departed the team in 2014. The Bruins opted to stay in house calling up Niklas Svedberg who ultimately never gained the trust of head coach Claude Julien. Svedberg posted a respectable .918 save percentage but only played in 18 games (14 starts.) Tuukka Rask played in 70 games that year, a career high to this day.
After Svedberg the Bruins gambled signing journeyman goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. Rask still played 64 games that year while Gustavsson recorded just 11 wins in 24 games played sporting a .908 save percentage.
After another failed experiments the Bruins returned to a familiar face bringing back Anton Khudobin after his brief stint with the Anaheim Ducks//San Diego Gulls. However, the reunion did not get off to a good start Khudobin didn't get his first win until December 1st and wouldn't record another win until February. His poor play saw him demoted to Providence in favor of Zane McIntyre who also struggled. After Claude Julien was fired Khudobin found his game winning 6 of his 8 appearances to end the year on a high note
Regardless of last season there is no doubt that without Khudobin this season the Bruins would be in deep trouble. The Bruins have battled injuries throughout the lineup and haven't been getting results with Tuukka Rask in goal. This is why in today's NHL its crucial for teams to have two reliable options in goal. The Bruins haven't received that over the last three seasons and they've suffered the consequences, overworking their starting goalie and calling upon him more than they should have.
Make no mistake Rask is still the team's number one goaltender, head coach Cassidy has reiterated this point. This wave Khudobin is riding is awesome in fact for the Bruins its timely. Yes Rask hasn't been great, yes Khudobin has been, but remember this, Anton Khudobin is a career backup. He's never started more than 40 games and he's never appeared in 40 or more games. His career high came in 2013-14 where he started 34 games and appeared in 36. He posted terrific numbers in that season (.926 save percentage, .934 even strength save percentage, and 19 wins) however, its crucial to remember, its a very small sample size.
If you're the Bruins you need to ride Khudobin's wave and hope he continues his consistent play once Tuukka Rask returns to form. Make no mistake Tuukka Rask is the number one goaltender in Boston. But make no mistake, Anton Khudobin is playing very good hockey right now, and for the Bruins that's whats keeping the ship afloat.
Photo: (NBC Sports)