ST. LOUIS, MO. - SEPTEMBER 15: Anton Khudobin #35 of the Minnesota Wild defends against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on September 15, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The Bruins probably should have won by three or four goals Sunday night in Buffalo, but Ryan Miller was stellar in net for the Sabres, and only allowed two goals (Boston added an empty-netter) in a 3-1 win Bruins win.
Miller made a couple of highlight-reel saves and made himself one of the major story lines of the game. In the process, Miller overshadowed his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Boston backup and the game’s first star, Anton Khudobin.
Khudobin was solid once again in between the pipes for the Bruins, picking up his second win of the season, and his third win of his Boston career. In the process, Khudobin pushed his career record to 7-1-0 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .954 save percentage.
With the Bruins’ relatively tame schedule thus far along with the play of No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, Khudobin’s chances have been few and far between. But when he’s been called upon, he’s shined for the Bruins, giving them all they can ask for in a backup goaltender.
“He’s played well,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of his backup’s performance. “He looks really comfortable in net for us. I don’t know if it’s he feels comfortable with the way the guys are playing in front of him, but he certainly looks comfortable.”
That comfort stems from the way that Khudobin has kept himself ready to go on the few times that he’s been called upon. He says it’s all about preparing the right way and approaching every game the same way, whether he’s between the pipes or on the end of the bench in a baseball cap.
“[I] try to stay sharp and stop the pucks in practice and just be ready every game,” he told reporters after his 25-save performance on Sunday night. “Even if i’m not playing, I try to get ready like I’m playing. Tuukk’s [Rask] been playing great, and someday when I’m gonna play, I’ll be ready — like [Sunday].”
Khudobin has plenty of reason to stay ready and make the most of his chances. The 30-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and if he can continue to play like this, he might build himself a nice market in a league that is always looking for goaltending.
That’s a bridge that isn’t even in sight yet, let alone ready to be crossed. In the meantime, Khudobin’s best play is to keep making the most of his opportunities. The Bruins’ schedule is getting ready to be kicked into overdrive, with a March of madness just a little more than two weeks away.
The backup goaltender will certainly be leaned on in the coming weeks, and if the first two performances are any indication, Khudobin will be ready.