|04.03.12 at 7:42 pm ET|
|04.03.12 at 12:58 pm ET|
Anton Khudobin has been through the playoffs with the Bruins before, but after being called up by the team Monday, the possibility exists that he could actually dress this time.
Khudobin (pronounced hoo-DOE-bin) served as one of Boston’s black aces, or practice players, for the postseason last year. He was on the ice with them both in practice and after Game 7 in Vancouver, hoisting the Stanley Cup with the other Bruins and black aces.
“It was good for experience,” Khudobin said. “How you prepare before the games, especially in the playoffs. Playoffs is a big hard run, so just how to get ready before the game and be helpful all the time, be with energy all the time and be focused in the game, every game, every shift, every minute.”
Given the uncertainty of Tuukka Rask‘s situation, Khudobin could actually be on the team’s roster when the playoffs open next Thursday. Rask is still recovering from an abdomen strain/groin strain, and though he is expected to begin skating this week, he might not be ready for the start of the postseason. Marty Turco cannot be on the playoff roster because he was signed after the trade deadline.
“We’ve got to see where Tuukka is” Claude Julien said Tuesday of whether Khudobin will dress in the playoffs. “If Tuukka isn’t ready, then Anton’s got to be ready because Marty can’t play in the playoffs. That’s clear to us, that’s clear to him and the way Tuukka’s going right now, he’s heading in the right direction. Where are going to be in a week and a half from now? I really don’t know.”
Said Khudobin: “Right now, it’s not a question for that. Tuukka maybe is getting ready to play, maybe not. I’m going to do my job right now, practicing every day. Today I had practice, game, tomorrow [another] practice. I’m just living every day.”
The 25-year-old Khudobin has six games of NHL experience, all of which came over the last two seasons as a member of the Wild. In 44 games with Providence this season, he has a 21-19-3 record with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
At the time of Rask’s injury, Khudobin was out with a wrist injury he suffered on Feb. 25 while shooting in a game against Bridgeport. The injury likely played a part in the B’s having to sign Turco, but Khudobin expressed no frustration that his injury likely cost him some time at the NHL level.
“Sometimes it happens in hockey,” he said. “[Maybe they would have] called me up, but I was hurt too. I just tried to keep moving forward, and finally the time to come up was yesterday.”
Since returning to action on March 23, Khudobin has played in four games for Providence, compiling a 2-2-0 record while allowing 11 goals.
“I’m feeling pretty well. I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve played four games [since] and I feel ready to go,” Khudobin said, adding that he is ready to practice “100 percent.”
One interesting note that Khudobin brought up is that his callups over the years have often come before games against the Penguins. A good friend of Penguins star and former World Juniors Evgeni Malkin, Khudobin caught up with Malkin over dinner Monday night. While he has often been called up for games against the Penguins, Khudobin says he still hasn’t played against the Russian forward yet.
“This is the funny part. I never played against him,” Khudobin said of Malkin, who is second in the NHL with 48 goals this season. “I don’t know, hopefully — maybe some time I will get a chance to play against him.”
That chance will not come Tuesday unless Turco, who is getting the start, falters. Khudobin will serve as the backup, while Tim Thomas will not dress.
|04.03.12 at 12:09 pm ET|
With their seed in the playoffs clinched, the Bruins will begin trying out some different lineups designed to rest some players while getting others experience. That will start Tuesday night against the Penguins, with No. 1 goaltender Tim Thomas not dressing for the first time this season.
Marty Turco will get the start, with recently recalled Anton Khudobin serving as the backup. Defenseman Torey Krug will make his NHL debut, while defenseman Adam McQuaid will remain out with a swollen eye. McQuaid participated in Tuesday’s morning skate sporting a visor.
Offensively, center Gregory Campbell will make his return to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game. Jordan Caron is sick, dealing with a flu/bug situation and will not play after being advised to stay away from the team.
|04.03.12 at 11:53 am ET|
Back in November and December, it seemed as if the Bruins were poised to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Boston went 21-3-1 over those two months, outscored opponents by a 101-43 margin and did not lose a game in regulation throughout all of November.
The second half of the season, however, has not gone quite as well. The Bruins went two months without putting together back-to-back wins, lost a few key players (Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Tuukka Rask) to injury and admitted to reaching a doldrums in effort-level that put their playoff positioning into question.
With just three games remaining in the season, however, the Bruins have secured a spot in the playoffs and clinched the Northeast Division, thereby ensuring themselves of the No. 2 seed entering the postseason. Although their postseason position is set, questions remain about how the sluggish second half might affect the team in the playoffs.
A glance at the team’s performance since February 1 over the last four seasons revealed that although this season’s Bruins have come back to earth since their early-winter success, they still are not far off from the team’s typical pace at this time of year. Here’s a quick look at how the Bruins have fared in February and March during their string of five consecutive postseason appearances.
Final record: 41-29-12 94 points
Record since February 1: 14-10-7
Final 10 games of regular season: 4-2-4
Playoff result: Lost in first round to Montreal (4-3)
Final record: 53-19-10, 116 points
Record since February 1: 17-11-4
Final 10 games of regular season: 8-2-0
Playoff result: Swept first round series against Montreal, lost in second round to Carolina (4-3)
Final record: 39-30-13, 91 points
Record since February 1: 16-10-3
Final 10 games of regular season: 6-4-0
Playoff result: Beat Buffalo in six-game first round series, lost in second round to Philadelphia (4-3)
Final record: 46-25-11, 103 points
Record since February 1: 18-10-4
Final 10 games of regular season: 6-3-1
Playoff result: Won Stanley Cup
Current record: 47-28-4, 98 points (could finish with as many as 104 points)
Record since February 1: 15-14-2
Last 10 games: 5-1-1 (three games remaining)
Playoff result: ?
Based on these results, the Bruins are still in good shape entering the playoffs. They are putting together wins now, and when they have had a winning record in their last 10 games, they have advanced to the second round. The Bruins also average about 16 wins in the last two months of the regular season over the last four years, and they are on pace to hit that mark this season.
They are in the middle of where they have been the past few years in point totals, and have won the second-most games of any Bruins team in the last five years with three games left to play.
The one difference between last year’s Stanley Cup championship team was its win differential since the beginning of February, which at a plus-4, was higher than it will be this season and better (albeit very slightly) than any other Bruins team in this five-year string of consecutive playoff appearances.
Of course, there are many other factors that translate into playoff success. Injuries will be an issue for the Bruins this season, as neither Horton (concussion) or Rask (groin) have been able to return to the lineup yet. Teams go on hot streaks while others suddenly go cold (think Bruins collapse in the second round of the 2010 playoffs). Sometimes, playoff favorites suffer stunning upsets and other times, Cinderella stories change a team’s fortune in the blink of an eye.
But in terms of records and win-loss trends at least, the Bruins are right on track to at least put up a fight in their campaign as defending Stanley Cup Champions.
|04.02.12 at 6:11 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Monday that they have recalled goaltender Anton Khudobin from Providence. Khudobin will likely be the Bruins’ backup goaltender when the playoffs begin if Tuukka Rask is not ready to return from his abdomen strain/groin strain.
Khudobin has a 21-19-3 record in Providence this season with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. He suffered a wrist injury in early March, but returned on March 23. He has a 2-2 record since returning.
Current backup Marty Turco, who has made three appearances for the team, is ineligible for postseason play because he was signed after the trade deadline.
|04.02.12 at 12:26 am ET|
The Bruins became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch their division, wrapping up the Northeast with their 2-1 win over the Rangers Sunday evening. The division win means they will hold the No. 2 seed when they begin the playoffs on April 12.
For the Bruins, Sunday was obviously about way more than clinching the division. In fact, you could take your pick when it comes to the positives that emerged from their victory at Madison Square Garden.
They finally did what they have often been unable to do by beating Rangers goaltender and Vezina favorite Henrik Lundqvist. They only put two pucks past Lundqvist, but the win showed that when Tim Thomas is on, two can be enough.
Thomas made 33 saves in the victory, and both the numbers and the eyeball test are suggesting that he’s getting right where he needs to be for the postseason.
No. 30 was far from himself for a pretty lengthy stretch during the regular season. In an eight-game span from Dec. 31 to Jan. 22, he allowed four or more goals four times. In early March, he allowed four goals in four of seven games. The Bruins were struggling, and they didn’t have a dominant Thomas to bail them out. That seems to be in the past now for both the B’s and Thomas.
Over his last seven starts, Thomas has allowed two goals or less in each game, a span in which he’s gone 5-1-1. Though he was coming off a shootout loss to the Capitals Thursday (his first shootout loss of the season), Thomas had to have been feeling pretty good about the way he’d been playing.
Sunday’s win means Thomas has beaten the Rangers for the first time in three tries this season (Tuukka Rask got the other start). Thomas had allowed three goals in each of his two starts against the conference leaders this season (0-2-0), but on Sunday the reigning Vezina winner held Rangers to one goal on 34 shots.
|03.31.12 at 8:13 pm ET|
Through the various highs and lows of the 2011-12 season, one thing has held true for the Bruins: They can’t beat the Rangers.
After losing their first three meetings (0-2-1) against New York — all of which have come in the second half of the season — the Bruins, who figure to hold the second seed in the East when the playoffs begin in about a week and a half, will have their final regular-season crack at the conference’s best team Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Tim Thomas will have to deal with the lighting that he despises so much. [Side note: Thomas got criticized unfairly for that postgame comment after the March 4 game, as it wasn’t the first time he’s brought up the difficulty he has with the lights there. He answered a question last season about the pre-game festivities at Canadiens games by mentioning he didn’t like the lights at MSG.] And the Bruins will have to deal with a goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist (assuming he plays) who has dominated them (and many other teams) over the years.
This season, Lundqvist deserves not only the Vezina trophy but perhaps the Hart as well. That’s why the Bruins need to beat him Sunday. The B’s may not be considered a favorite to make it to the conference finals given how well the Penguins have played of late, but it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if Boston and New York met later in the playoffs with a trip to the Cup finals on the line.
The B’s are a confident bunch either way, but they could use that piece of mind of knowing that Lundqvist, who is 3-0-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and one shutout against Boston this season, doesn’t completely own them. Considering they’ve only beaten him once over the last two seasons, they could stand to remind themselves and everyone else that King Henrik can be defeated.
Both teams are clearly trying to make sure they’re playing their best hockey by the time the postseason starts. The B’s enter Sunday’s game with points in five straight games (4-0-1), while the Rangers, who lead the Bruins by 11 points, are winners of four straight. Though New York has beaten Boston three times and doesn’t have much to worry about as far as the standings go, the Rangers still have something to gain Sunday. They can officially clinch the Eastern Conference, and a win could give them a mental edge over the B’s should they meet later on down the road.