When it comes to sports journalism — and really life in general — people have a problem admitting when they’re wrong.
You see it all the time when someone is called out for a bad take they made in the past. They supported a trade that backfired horribly? “It made sense at the time.” They criticized a team for drafting a future superstar? “Drafting is magic, so who could have seen that coming?” But sometimes, your bad take is just that — bad. There’s no sugarcoating it, you just have to eat crow and move on.
So with that being said, let the record show that I was completely wrong about Anton Khudobin.
Back in August, I compared the Dallas Stars’ offseason departures with their replacements. The piece has several takes that did not age well, but the worst is arguably me suggesting that Khudobin would perform about the same as Kari Lehtonen. And to be honest, as a big Lehtonen supporter, I personally thought he might end up slightly worse.
At the start of the season, it looked like I was right. He let in three goals in each of his first two games, and posted a .880% and .912% save percentage respectively. But then he followed it up with a .957% performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and that ended up being a sign of things to come.
Across the entire season, Khudobin played in 41 games and posted a .923% save percentage, which was good for eighth in the NHL among goalies with 25+ games played. That’s ahead of top NHL goalies like Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, John Gibson, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Tuukka Rask. Khudobin even set a franchise record for most saves in a shutout against the Nashville Predators with 47.
After years of subpar (if not downright bad) backup goaltending, the Stars didn’t just have a good backup — they had an elite one. In fact, he was playing so well that early on in the season, many fans were claiming that Khudobin really shouldn’t be the backup — he should arguably be made the starter.
Of course, in hindsight those takes were just as bad as the one I led off with. As impressive as Khudobin’s season was, it doesn’t hold a candle to Ben Bishop’s. The Stars’ netminder posted a career-high .934% save percentage across 46 games, good for first in the NHL (Robin Lehner was second with a .930%). He set a franchise record of his own for the longest goalless streak, and ended the season with seven shutouts, third to only Marc-André Fleury and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Not only that, he was just as good in the playoffs, posting a .933% across 13 games, including a herculean effort against the St. Louis Blues in Game 7. There’s a reason he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist, and honestly he should end up winning the whole thing.
In summary, this was the easiest positional group to grade out of them all. As they say, save the best for last.
Goaltending, End-of-Season Grade: A+
All numbers via Hockey-Reference.com.