By: Mark Allred Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Boston Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin has one-year remaining on his contract, and if he can keep his backup job after this falls National Hockey League training camp, he’ll be under tremendous pressure to be better in the 2017-18 campaign than he was last season in his return to Boston for a second tour of duty. That pressure will consist of his previous season record of 7-6-1 in 16 games played and the fact that recent two-year two-way signings of Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban will be in the mix at camp jockeying to knock the 31-year-old Khudobin out of the Bruins goaltending scenario.
Although the Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native was an instrumental piece in earning the Bruins an appearance in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the later part of last season, he needs to be a better supporting teammate to give starter Tuukka Rask adequate rest. Out of the 328 games, the B’s have played in the last four seasons, Rask’s been heavily relied on appearing in 257 of those games leaving 71 games to the backup netminders such as Jonas Gustavsson, Chad Johnson, and Niklas Svedberg who’ve earned a record together of 42-24-6 with a combined goals-against-average of 2.44 and combined .913 save percentage. Now those numbers don’t seem bad for four goaltenders in the limited role during the past four seasons but the only net minder that’s actually done well out of the group and set the tone to these averages was the effort of Johnson during the 2013-14 campaign where he earned a 17-4-3 record and 2.10 GAA and .925 Save%. After Johnson walked to free agency before the 2014-15 season, the Bruins backup role has only produced a 25-20-3 record and 2.56 GAA and .909 Save% numbers which are entirely unacceptable.
Khudobin’s 2017-18 Season Expectations
Considering all the intangibles and the fact that this article is being published in July, I can see Anton winning the job next season over the severely inexperienced McIntyre and Subban. In an effort to lower the playing time of Rask I can see Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy giving Khudobin the opportunity to start at least 30 games and if he’s on top of his offseason workouts and has a strong camp and forget about the beginning of last year, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the veteran can earn a 20-10 record with both sides being happy with that production. Another key factor that the Bruins will look at during the upcoming schedule is the 14 back-to-back games the B’s are set to play and what scenario to use him in as it’s almost impossible to start one netminder two straight games.
Bruins Goaltending Future
( Above Photo Credit: Boston Bruins Official Twitter Account @NHLBruins )
Now, this article can’t go any further with mentioning the role of McIntyre and Subban after next season when the Bruins could and most likely will move on from the services of Khudobin after his contractual obligation is over. As mentioned above, with the signing of the young goaltenders recently for two more seasons, the timing of the 2018-19 season will be important to them as that could be the Bruins NHL goaltending tandem for that particular season while auditioning for more games at the highest level. This is all pure speculation on my part but with the way things are lining up with the developing depth the landscape isn’t hard to figure out when you consider the Bruins team is always up against the ceiling of the league mandated salary cap.