Anton Khudobin Shines Bright in Hurricanes Loss to Rangers

Anton Khudobin, goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes shined bright in an eventual losing effort Thursday night to

(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)
(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

the New York Rangers, 2-1.  Khudobin was a virtual brick wall, making 33 saves out of 34 shots attempted – a .971 save percentage.  His play was much like what we saw last season, and believe he is still capable of bringing to the net.

His counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist was equally as brilliant, saving 29 of 30 for a .967 save percentage. More importantly, he denied the 3 Hurricanes’ shootout attempts to seal the win for the Rangers. Rick Nash, who has been on a scoring binge so far this season, was held scoreless during regulation, but executed a tremendous move on Khudobin for the shootout victory.

There is an old adage that talks about “emotional victories.”  Frankly, I think they are few and far between. Thursday night’s outcome for Carolina, however, might be an exception.  The team played its best hockey of the season to date.  With Eric Staal, Andrej Sekera, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Dwyer, and Jordan Staal all missing from the lineup due to injury, the “young guns” came to play.

And play they did.

Led by the determined effort of Riley Nash, the young guys on this team played hard and all the way to the end.  I saw no let up in anyone wearing a Hurricanes sweater.  Riley Nash was everywhere, hustling like Nathan Gerbe.  (Gerbe left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return.)  Yet another injury to the Hurricanes.  Hopefully Gerbe’s injury is not serious and he will be on the ice next Tuesday in Winnipeg.

Riley Nash was not only hustling, but playing very smart hockey, also.  Instead of making careless, directionless passes he passed the puck with veteran precision.  In this the beginning of his 2nd season with the Hurricanes, the 25-year old Nash is playing like a guy fighting for a spot on the roster, yet with the confidence that says, “I belong.”  Riley Nash is a strong part of the young foundation that Coach Bill Peters will have to work with as he builds this team into a winner.  Coach Peters saw the younger ‘Canes bringing it:

“Some of the young guys were solid again here tonight,” Peters said

A team effort helped Anton Khudobin

Make no mistake – Anton Khudobin was stellar in-goal against the Rangers.  But, the effort that the entire Hurricanes squad turned in last night against the Rangers was remarkable.  Coach Peters acknowledged that effort after the game: “The effort was good,” head coach Bill Peters said. “These guys work and compete. Can’t question that.”

Brad Malone, Jay McClement, and Justin Faulk turned in a solid night’s work.  Newly called-up Zach Boychuk nearly netted his 2nd goal in as many games.  And Chris Terry notched his 3rd goal of the season in the 2nd period on an assist from Ryan Murphy and Tim Gleason.

Terry is filling the scoring void that has been left by the injury-absences of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner.  His consistency is developing and at 25, he is leading Carolina’s “young guns” in this early part of the season.

I cannot think of anyone on the ‘Canes roster that did not give peak effort against the Rangers.  Alexander Semin received some scrutiny due to his scoring drought this season.  But, I believe he will be fine when the rhythm of playing with his regular line mates is restored.  It might be legitimate to wonder if his hand is completely well, or if Semin is mentally ready to resume his aggressive posture at the net after the injury.

Of course Anton Khudobin’s mirror at the other end of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist, was not going to be bested by effort alone.  He was back to his usual outstanding self, and eventually was one better than

Can Henrik Lundqvist complete that last step for the New York Rangers? Russ Cohen answers that question and more. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Can Henrik Lundqvist complete that last step for the New York Rangers? Russ Cohen answers that question and more. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

Khudobin.  The Rangers had been giving up goals like crazy in their previous 3 games versus the Blue Jackets, (5), the Maple Leafs, (6), and the Islanders, (6).  Last year’s runner-up in the Stanley Cup Finals was not going to keep letting in pucks like a sieve, and the contest versus the Hurricanes may very well be the catalyst for Lundqvist to return to true form.

Will Anton Khudobin Get the nod?

The Hurricanes get some much-needed rest before heading to western Canada for the remaining 4 games of this 5-game road trip. When Coach Peters and staff are reviewing the performance Khudobin brought against the Rangers, it may tip the scales in his favor in Peters’ desire to name a starting goaltender.  He was not without praise for “Dobby:

“He was solid,” Peters said. “I thought Anton played real well.”

We will no doubt see Cam Ward in between the pipes again soon – maybe against Winnipeg.  But Khudobin made a strong statement that may cement him as the team’s starter.

The Hurricanes are now 0-2-2, with 2 points on the season.

As I stated here Wednesday, the swing through the Western part of our northern neighbor could and should be productive.  Between now and Tuesday night, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Sekera could be back and ready to go, as could team captain Eric Staal.  If there is anything real to the notion of an emotional victory, then the positive momentum gained against the Rangers has to be a win for the team and for Coach Peters.

There are points to be had in Canada.  The ‘Canes need to bring a lion’s share of those points back to Raleigh’s PNC Arena, along with a continued positive momentum.  Whether it is “Wardo” or “Dobby” in-goal, continued hard, smart work will payoff for this team.  For Hurricanes fans, now would be a good time to see some rewards for that effort.