There are many great stories in this playoffs, but my crush goes to my former Minnesota Wild teammate, excellent goalie Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars.
For many, Khudobin comes as a surprise, but I've known him for a long time and I'm not surprised by his success. I always believed he was made for a number one goalie, but due to his 5'11 '' height, no team gave him that opportunity.
By the way, if Star goaltender Ben Bishop was healthy, we probably wouldn't be talking about Khudobin today. However, should the Stars win the Stanley Cup, it will have to be considered for the Conn-Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs.
And you know what ? It couldn't happen to a better guy. Khudobin is a real team player. He's had a career as an assistant, but his stats are worthy of a number one goalie and his teammates love him.
He works hard and is always positive. Besides, he's a very funny guy and he has a knack for lightening the mood in the locker room.
It is a quality very appreciated in a reserve guard. So even when he's not playing, he finds a way to contribute to his team's success.
He didn't spend a lot of time with us in Minnesota, but I can tell you that he had really impressed me and in that sense, he reminded me of Tomas Vokoun when I started out with the Canadiens. I was a second round pick and Vokoun a ninth round pick. I thought I was going to 'eat' Vokoun, but he was excellent and he had a brilliant career.
In my only season in Minnesota, I shared the net with Niklas Backstrom, but after an injury, Khudobin was called up from the Wild's school club, the Houston Eros, and he blew me away. He was a fierce competitor who went out of his way to stop every puck, a bit like Tim Thomas or Dominik Hasek.
Strong at all times
He was appreciated wherever he played, whether it was Minnesota, Boston, Carolina, Anaheim or Dallas. His career save rate is .919 in the regular season and .923 in the playoffs.
In 30 games this season, he has stopped 93% of shots aimed at his net and it should come as no surprise his success in the playoffs.
The cause of the little guardians
At a time when teams are looking for giants in net, I hope Khudobin will give some general managers pause. We won't reverse the trend, but Khudobin shows that it is still possible for a small goalkeeper to be successful. At 34, he still has his youthful reflexes. It's impressive.
What I also like about Khudobin is that he hasn't changed his style. He plays like at the time. He reads and reacts according to the situation. He does not always fall to the knees with each shot and he does not necessarily use modern techniques for protecting the post. In short, he uses his experience and his intelligence of the game.
It's true that small goalkeepers can't cheat, but there are still some massive goalkeepers who aren't robots, including this season's Vézina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck as well as Carey Price, but I'd love to see more.
My heart is with Khudobin. I wish him the Stanley Cup and a good contract for next season. He could be a great option for the Colorado Avalanche, where he would form a good duet with Philipp Grubauer. He would also fit well with the Detroit Red Wings with Jonathan Bernier.
– Interview by Gilles Moffet
Another reason why I wish a Dallas Stars victory is the contribution of Alexander Radulov. He's been criticized a lot, but at least he's showing up on the ice and he's silencing his detractors, much like Alex Ovechkin once did. I would have liked so much that he stayed in Montreal.
Deserved distinction for Hellebuyck
Connor Hellebuyck was my choice for the Vézina Trophy and I'm happy he won it. What a season he had with the Winnipeg Jets and it was the second time he was among the finalists. His stats are lower than Tuukka Rask's, but he wasn't playing behind a defense as tight as Boston's. More importantly, Rask has only played in 41 games, compared to 58 for Hellebuyck. Andrei Vasilevskiy has had more wins, but we agree that the Lightning is a much better team than the Jets.
Draisaitl, the best?
Leon Draisaitl had a whole season with the Edmonton Oilers and I understand he was awarded the Hart Trophy, but in my opinion Nathan MacKinnon had more of an impact in Colorado than Draisaitl in Edmonton. One thing is certain, MacKinnon is a more complete player.
Suzuki, true star
Nick Suzuki was named to the Rookie All-Star Team and he deserved it. This honor is sometimes misleading, however. Some rookie “stars” are good players, but nothing more. In the case of Suzuki, we are talking about a dominant player and I can't wait to see him next season.