When I think of a goalie controversy, I don’t necessarily think of it as the backup being on fire and the starter not playing well. When I think of goalie controversies, I think of both goaltenders playing well and thus making it extremely difficult for the head coach to make a decision.
Let’s be clear here: Tuukka Rask is the more talented of the two. I don’t think that’s something that can be debatable when looking at the overall body of work. I’m not telling you Khudobin is bad, I’m telling you that when given their overall bodies of work Tuukka Rask is undeniably the better looking of the two.
But this isn’t about the overall body of work, this is about the 2017-2018 season and based on that – Anton Khudobin should be ridden like a horse in a classic western film. Let’s take a look at the stats from freebets.org:
Anton Khudobin: 7-0-0-2, .932 SV%, 6.34 GSAA and a 2.22 GAA (garbage stat, FYI).
Tuukka Rask: 3-8-0-2, .899 SV%, -4.60 GSAA and a 2.91 GAA.
For those who forget what GSAA is:
The goals this goalie prevented given his save percentage and shots faced vs. the league average save percentage on the same number of shots. Min. 4 shots faced per team game needed to qualify.
Initially when we talked about Khudobin, we talked about a win over Arizona. Now we’re talking about wins over Los Angeles, San Jose (twice), Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Toronto. Those are some legit NHL teams that Khudobin was defeated. To go even further, look at his SV% over his last handful of games:
October 26 vs San Jose: .973
November 10 at Toronto: .909
November 16 at LA: .964
November 18 at San Jose: .973
November 22 at New Jersey: .950
November 26 vs Pittsburgh: .850
There is only one real stinker in a month of hockey and that was against Pittsburgh on Black Friday. That’s a combined .949 save percentage over the past month. That’s pretty darn good.
But there’s one major, glaring difference when it comes to a Tuukka Rask start vs an Anton Khudobin start and Matt Kalman does a great job telling you about it:
During his losing streak, the Bruins have scored seven goals. In Khudobin’s four-game winning streak, the Bruins scored 11 goals.
What’s happening during these runs is that Boston isn’t scoring goals when Tuukka Rask is in net. You can make up your narrative that the team doesn’t play well when he’s in net because they know he’s going to give up a soft goal, but you’re a fool if you believe that.
Boston is one of the worst goal scoring teams in the NHL. They’re currently 29th in goals for and if you subscribe to goals for per game the team is 25th.
I don’t wholly subscribe to “Tuukka Rask isn’t playing well because the team isn’t scoring in front of him”, but it is part of the issue. Look at the game against Pittsburgh. Crosby ties the game up with Khudobin on his back and the Bruins come back and score the game winner. If the duos were reversed and based on the trends we’ve seen, it’s the Bruins giving up the fourth goal and only taking a limited number of shots.
Remember, there was a point where the Oilers almost tripled the Bruins in shots. That Bruins’ team hasn’t shown itself when Khudobin is in net.
Is there a goalie controversy?
Tuukka Rask is your starter, but there’s no problem in riding the hot hand. Anton Khudobin is not going to play .949% hockey for the rest of the season. There will be a point where he regresses to his career .917 save percentage and there will be a point where Rask’s bad bounces and poor decision making (stop allowing the top corner to be picked) will lessen and he will trend upwards towards his .922 career save percentage.