Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin is probably one of the most underrated CV in NHL goaltending. At 28, he already won a Stanley Cup, an RSL (the Russian league before the KHL-era) title, an U18 WJC gold medal, a WJC silver medal an a senior WC gold medal, just last May. In this translated interview originally appearing on the Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s Fan Club, Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin talks about the recent WC in Minsk, shares his views about the latest season and discusses Russian country-mates Sergei Bobrovsky and Yaroslav Kosov.
– After the WC triumph, many Russian players were awarded a car directly from President Putin. How do you judge this award?
– Of course it’s a great gift. All this attention from President Putin was great. It was always like that. When there are such meetings, all is organized at the highest possible level. And of course, you have to accept those gifts! May God give us more! Of course, first of all more Gold Medals, and then more of those great gifts. It’s always pleasant to get such things, a big honor, also considering that the gift itself was a high-price one.
– Your latest NHL season was the best in all accounts. What left you satisfied and what did not?
– I wasn’t happy about the injuries. Since the start of the season things went well and we played our way regardless of the result. And our coaches told me: “If you’ll play well, you’ll keep on playing.” And then the injury. I had to sit out for three months, I thought it would have been much less. Then [Cam] Ward got injured too and I played many games on a row. And I think I played fairly well. It would have been great if I could play about fifty games, but I didn’t manage to do it as the regular season ended. So, this season has been good for me. Probably it was because I was so well accepted in Carolina, especially by my new team mates. All was great, comfortable, at the highest level. All was organized so that we should only think about how to play better.
Hurricanes number one goalie
– You became the number one goalie for the Hurricanes because Ward was injured or because the coaches decided that way?
– It’s hard to say what was more important, if Ward’s injury or my game. But probably my game, because even if Ward wouldn’t get injured and I wouldn’t play that way, they wouldn’t play me that often. So, maybe it was all this put together. I was injured myself earlier, and some other guys stepped up and played well. Maybe those times I was unlucky. But this time it was the other way around. Injuries never are a good situation for any player, but all went that way.
– Carolina and Boston are two franchises with very different histories. When you moved to Raleigh, did you feel a difference?
– Of course Boston is a franchise with big traditions as a part of the Original Six. But if we speak about the arena, everything at the Hurricanes is organized at the highest level. And also the fans are top class. The cities are very different. Boston is a big city, Raleigh is not. But everything is at the highest level: management, coaches, players. All is great.
– Why didn’t the Hurricanes get to the playoffs? Was it hard for you to get to the Stanley Cup finals and seeing your next season end that early?
– Some teams simply have to miss the playoffs anyway. We lacked something, that’s for sure. What we exactly lacked is something that should determine the coach and the general manager. Maybe we had too many injuries, not only me and Ward, but also other players. Like they say, it’s a big puzzle and if you don’t have all the pieces, it’s not going to work. We apparently lost some pieces and you know the final result.
– But Carolina had the potential to reach the playoffs?
– Of course!
– In January you showed some incredible hockey, 10 wins in 14 games. What happened that month?
– Each player tries hard to show his best hockey. And I was hungry for hockey. Three months without playing, I missed hockey very much. I wanted to play and feel the ice again. I wanted to fulfill my ambitions. I’m not anymore a player of an age when I needed to simply get to the ice and try hard, I needed to show my best hockey to help my team getting to the top of the standings.
– You had better stats than Blue Jacket’s Sergei Bobrovsky, but we have to say that he played more games and also participied in the Olympic Games. Were you considered to be part of Team Russia?
– I met [Team Russia Head Coach Zinetula] Bilyaletdinov in person. It was in New York, we were playing an away game against the Islanders, and after the game, I met Evgeny Nabokov. Bilyaletdinov approached us, and told us his plan for the Olympics: calling two goalies from the NHL and one from the KHL. So we wished each other good luck and greeted. And all.
– When did this happen?
– At the very start of January.
Khudobin and Bobrovsky
– One year ago Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy, but in the series against the Penguins he didn’t play well.
– No, he played great. You’re talking that way, but try it for yourself – go and stay in the crease – then we’ll see. Columbus got to the playoffs for the first time and he faced forty shots a night. They shot a lot and he let some pucks go in. But a goalie isn’t a robot and sometimes can allow a goal. Pittsburgh was probably a team of a higher level. This is why they managed to score one or two goals more. Maybe if Columbus scored five goals, and not three, they would have won the series.
– How would you describe your ties with Bobrovsky?
– Excellent ties.
– You can say he’s your friend?
– People who I have known for a lot of time I call my friends. Sergei and I are hockey friends. When we meet, either in Columbus or in Raleigh, we dinner together. During the World Championship we talked a lot. He’s a positive, quiet fellow. I can define him as a workshop colleague.
– Were life conditions different in Boston and in Raleigh?
– I’m not picky in terms of weather. But if we talk about life conditions… The flat was kind of the same. The history of the city, of course, was different. Boston is a city known all over the world, Raleigh probably not. But it didn’t have an impact on me.
Discussing Panthers’ Yaroslav Kosov
– Nikolai Kulemin told us that you watched the Gagarin Cup final game with him in Novogorsk. What do you think about Yaroslav Kosov, who’s trying to get on the NHL?
– Well, why not? He’s a good player. If he wants to try to get a spot in the NHL he should try. Florida is great, the first city where he’s gonna go is Miami. I can only wish him good luck.
– Does he have the makings to play in the NHL?
– Why not? The only thing is that he shouldn’t go there and think “I played in the KHL for the senior team therefore if I go to Florida they’ll give me an NHL spot right after.” It won’t go that way. You need to go there and try to show your best hockey and don’t think that you’re a full developed player. It’s two different leagues, two different mentalities. This is why you have to show your best hockey, and then the decision is up to the coaches and general manager.
– Was it true that you could get back to Russia and sign with Metallurg Magnitogorsk?
– Some talks are always there. I always said that I’d be happy to get back home and play for my home club. But even so, probably it wasn’t my destiny. Yes, there were some talks, but it was just talking.
– Your contract with the Hurricanes probably is better from the one you had with the Bruins. Carolina’s management will count on you for the future?
– I signed a new two-year contract back in March. We dealt directly before the game during the breakfast. I was having a breakfast with Alexander Semin and our GM Ron Francis in a joking way said to me: “So, we’re gonna sign a contract with you or not?” So I replied him: “You need to talk with my agent,” and I left for the practice. Therefore, they went talking with my agent. After the practice, I called my agent and gave him my requests for the new contract. So I had a lunch, took a nap, and after the nap I got some SMSes with the confirmation of my requests. Then, I went to a cafe and signed all the papers, then we left for the game.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso