Malcolm Subban had just one opportunity to make a National Hockey League impression last season, and the resulting impression was not a good one.
After stopping all 17 pucks he faced on Tuesday night at TD Garden, Subban improved his chances at getting some redemption opportunities in 2015-2016.
It was only half of a pre-season game, of course, but it’s a start.
“It felt pretty good,” the Boston goaltending prospect said of his 29:43 of ice time in a Bruins 2-1 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. “To be honest, [I was] maybe a little nervous at the start because from the start of [training] camp up until this game I didn’t feel at my best in practice. I didn’t feel too good like I was tracking the puck [well] but thankfully it all came together tonight and I thought I played pretty well.”
Subban, 21, looked focused throughout his period-and-a-half of action, with perhaps his best save coming on a second period penalty-kill deflection and ensuing skirmish in front.
“I thought Malcolm was really good at times there where he was flooded with some shots,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He made a couple of big saves.”
Boston’s first-round selection (24th overall) of the 2012 draft, Subban made his NHL debut last year on February 20 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and gave up goals on three straight shots in the second period before being pulled. It sent Subban back to the drawing board this offseason, with the help of goaltending coach Bob Essensa.
“In that game, I felt all the goals I was way too deep on,” Subban said. “Even though some of them might have been a tip or a screen, I felt I was too deep and didn’t give myself a chance to make the save. It wasn’t just that game, it was in the AHL, too. I felt the goals that were scored I was too deep. I’ve worked on that with Bob. That’s the biggest thing I need to work on, using my speed a bit more.”
Subban’s athleticism has always been one of his biggest assets, and he’s learning when to unleash it.
“I felt I could have played the puck a lot better,” Subban said of his Tuesday performance, admitting that he tends to be critical of himself after games. “I was challenging too early, so by the time they started to rim the puck I was way too far out and couldn’t get to it. [But] I felt I had pretty good rebound control. One squirted out in the first but other than that I was putting them into the mesh or the corner, or smothering them, so not too much was going on in front which helps the ‘D’ out a lot. It helps us get the puck out and not be trapped in our zone.”
The battle for Tuukka Rask‘s backup will continue throughout the next few weeks of Bruins’ camp, with Jeremy Smith, Zane McIntyre and Jonas Gustavsson his competition. Although Subban is aware of the job that is up for grabs, he’s trying to stay focused on himself.
“You look around too much, you forget you’ve got to do the same job,” Subban said. “I’m trying to play my game. Obviously it’s a great competition for the guys to push you, knowing that these guys are competing for the same job, but at the same time we’re all trying to help each other.”
And if he wins the job, he’s ready for the redemption story to begin.
“It’s the mentality you’ve got to have, whether it comes or not,” said Subban. “You’ve got to be ready. I felt I had that chance last year and wasn’t ready so, I’m looking forward to this year and made the necessary adjustments and hopefully I can make a better opportunity.”