Mitch's Sports Report: Back-Up Khudobin Backstops Bruins To Shut-Out Win Over Sabres
Playing the second of back to back games, with overnight travel from Boston to Buffalo thrown into the mix, it's no surprise the Boston Bruins played with heavy legs and on skates that seemed dulled with fatigue.
Luckily, their back-up goaltender was perfectly sharp. Anton Khudobin stopped all 36 shots the Sabres sent his way, and needed just one goal on a beautiful individual effort by rookie Jake DeBrusk to backstop a 3-0 win in Buffalo, good for the Bruins seventh win in their past ten games.
Buffalo came out roaring, pouring seventeen shots on Khudobin in the first period alone, and that's a total some teams on a bad night will put up for an entire game. Tuukka Rask had seen the lion's share of goalie duty over this impressive stretch of games for Boston and it's a difficult job for any back-up to come in on rare occasions when back to back games are on the docket and the starter needs a rest and pitch a shut-out, but that's why the understudy role for a goalie is still a critical one and Khudobin has performed more than admirably so far this season, with an 8-2 record when he's in between the pipes and a 2.45 goals against average, stats that were buoyed by his goose egg last night.
The Bruins to their credit found their skating game as the contest wore on, picking up their play in the second period and getting a highlight reel goal from the speedy DeBrusk, his second goal in as many nights. On the game-winner he collected a pass from Charlie McAvoy in the neutral zone and then went wide at the blue line, skating right past the Buffalo defender who couldn't angle him into the boards. As he got near the face off circle DeBrusk then pulled the puck behind his skate to avoid a stick check by the next defender and released a laser of a wrist shot that Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner had no chance of stopping as it rang off the crossbar and dropped into the back of the net. Just a brilliant goal by a young player who seems to be getting better and better and more confident in his game along with other young Bruins, bear cubs perhaps we could call them, such as McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo, among others.
DeBrusk's goal stood up all the way and the 3-0 final came courtesy of two empty net goals by Tim Schaller and David Backes after Buffalo pulled their goalie hoping for a late comeback that didn't materialize. And Khudobin, good as he was, also got help when Torey Krug and Noel Acciari blocked shots that appeared heading into the net during scrambles when Khodobin was caught out of position.
It's all good for the Bruins right now as they maintain their five point lead over Montreal for third place in the Atlantic division, which represents a playoff spot.
The Canadiens for their part scored a big win last night on the first leg of a three game western Canada road trip, getting into and winning a run and gun pond hockey game 7-5 against the Canucks in Vancouver. Nicolas Deslauriers scored two goals in a game for the first time in his career and Carey Price survived the onslaught of shots, making 34 saves to get the win in net. Deslauriers is not known for his goal scoring and is part of Montreal's fourth line, used by coaches for grit and energy and physical play to rest the finesse players during games and so any goal scoring from the fourth liners is gravy, and the Deslauriers combo with Daniel Carr and Byron Froese combined for five Montreal points last night. The Habs will be tested on this road trip, even though Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton are not powerhouse teams this year, because their best defenseman Shea Weber is out indefinitely ith an injured foot, but they definitely got off on the right foot last night, keeping the Bruins within their sights with that 7-5 victory.
The Bruins would love to have closed the gap between them and second place Toronto in the Atlantic, both teams going into action last night with four points separating them, but the Carolina Hurricanes were no help at all in getting that item checked of Boston's Xmas wish list, getting absolutely shellacked by the Maple Leafs 8-1 in Toronto. Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk each scored a goal to go along with three assists in the laugher against Carolina, which in a better hockey universe would give up playing hockey in the land of southern barbecue and move the franchise to where one should and once did exist, and that's Quebec City. You don't have to call them the Nordiques as they once were known, but it is time for the NHL to do better by its hard core Canadian fan base and bring a franchise back to Quebec. The Leafs, meanwhile, will play the second of back to back games tonight in Columbus, Ohio against the Blue Jackets so there may be some scoreboard watching by the Bruins to see if the Jackets can do them a solid and keep Toronto four points rather than five or six ahead of the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic.
At Madison Square Garden Henrik Lundqvist stopped 39 pucks and Paul Carey scored twice to power the NY Rangers by the Anaheim Ducks 4-1.