The biggest thing holding back the Bruins’ Providence (AHL) farm club from staying in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race has been goaltending.
Three netminders — Nolan Schaefer, Michael Hutchinson and Matt Dalton — have all had their chance to shine. Other than some brief glimpses of brilliance, they mostly failed.
So while the Bruins mainly acquired Anton Khudobin at the trade deadline as an emergency fill-in should Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask suddenly be struck down, the opportunity to upgrade the farm team’s puck-stopping was a positive side effect.
As Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney told Dan Hickling of the Providence Journal this week:
“We’ve had a book on him. You like to think you have a book on all the players you’re trying to acquire. As well as [your] assets. …
“I think the goaltending situation with Khudobin was reflective of [needs] up here [in Boston]. Inevitably that’s going to change the outlook in Providence.”
The change in outlook revealed itself last night with the P-Bruins defeating Charlotte, 4-2, behind 25 saves from Khdobin. Another of the P-Bruins’ newest acquisitions, Stefan Chaput, scored one of Providence’s goals.
The P-Bruins’ problems this season have been plentiful beyond the goaltending. The defense is small, the offense is streaky and the special teams have been abysmal. Khudobin’s arrival isn’t going to fix all that.The P-Bruins made other acquisitions, including Chaput, David Laliberte and Boris Valabik via trade, and Ryan Donald and Alain Goulet as call-ups from Reading of the ECHL.
There’s no telling if the change in personnel did enough to make the P-Bruins a playoff participant — they have to make up 12 points and have just 18 games left on their schedule — but every team has a better chance to win, and young players have a better environment to develop, when the goaltending is top-notch.
In Khudobin, the P-Bruins might at least have a pillar to build on.