What we learned: Khudobin, McAvoy shine in shootout win over Devils
Entering last week’s three-game swing through California, the Boston Bruins remained the lone National Hockey league team without back-to-back wins. After impressive victories in Los Angeles over the Kings and San Jose over the Sharks, the Bruins changed that not so pretty stat.
Watching closely as to how they would carry the momentum gained on the west coast into New Jersey, the Bruins entered their Thanksgiving Eve tilt looking to extend their win streak to three in a row. Despite blowing a 2-0 first period lead, the Bruins did enough to bring the game into overtime and then eventually the shootout for the 3-2 triumph against a young and improved Devils squad.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins earned their first win of the year against an Eastern Conference opponent:
Anton Khudobin continues to win games:
It doesn’t matter who the starting and backup goalies are. NHL head coaches will always ride the hot hand, and that’s exactly what Bruce Cassidy is doing with Khudobin.
With Wednesday’s 40-save effort, Khudobin is now 6-0-2 in eight starts this season, carrying a 2.13 goals-against average and a save percentage of .938. The Bruins’ backup now has six of the team’s nine wins. Khudobin’s style of play is certainly more unusual and more nerve-wracking than that of Tuukka Rask, but as of late it’s been working for the Russian. Making four starts since returning from injury, Khudobin has gone 3-0-1, allowing seven goals in that span.
With the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in town for a Black Friday matinee at TD Garden on Friday, it will be interesting to see if Cassidy continues to ride the hot hand.
Charlie McAvoy does it all:
The Bruins got a brief glimpse of what McAvoy can do in their six-game series loss to the Ottawa Senators last season. How McAvoy would follow up his playoff performance entering his first full professional season was one of the B’s top early-season storylines. So far, McAvoy has aced all his tests.
With the Bruins searching for the dagger in the 11th road of the shootout, Cassidy called upon the former Boston University Terrier to finally close the deal. A shot in the dark if you will – asking a defenseman to secure the win with a shootout goal – Cassidy’s roll of the dice was rewarded with McAvoy’s beauty of a backhander in his first career shootout attempt.
As good as he’s looked so far, the best is yet to come for McAvoy – and that’s the scary part.
Jake DeBrusk remains hot:
Sometimes watching a game or two from the press box is never a bad thing, especially for a rookie. For the 21-year old DeBrusk, that certainly has been the case.
After sitting out the Bruins 4-1 loss at TD Garden on November 11 as one of the Bruins’ healthy scratches, DeBrusk returned to the lineup in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins’ coaching staff and management saw a different DeBrusk in that game. Since then, it’s been much of the same.
With his first period tally to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead, DeBrusk picked up right where he left off after notching a goal and an assist in San Jose. Over the past few games, DeBrusk has been more physical, more engaged in puck pursuit and an all-around improved player in all three zones. The stats back that up. With two goals and two assists in four games since his scratch, the early season confidence shown by DeBrusk appears to be back.
Ryan Spooner returns:
Slowly, but surely, the Bruins are getting bodies back. A few games after seeing centerman David Krejci return to the lineup, the Bruins got another center back on the ice. However, after liking what he’s seen from his centers of late, Cassidy slotted Spooner on the left wing, alongside Riley Nash and Noel Acciari. Spooner took 12 shifts for a total of 10:17 where he registered zeros across the board.
The sixth-year Bruin won’t make much of an impact in what could very well be his last season in Boston. But with the Bruins being victimized by injuries so far, any healthy bodies are a good thing.