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If you did not see any of last night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden, it would be entirely too easy to look at Malcolm Subban
’s preseason debut and chalk it up as yet another rough NHL -- albeit against many of Detroit’s AHLers -- showing for the 2012 first-round pick.
But with 30 stops on 34 shots against in just 40 minutes of action, the 22-year-old Subban was perhaps the only thing that really kept the Black and Gold in what ended as a 5-1 blowout loss.
“He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, but overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us,” B’s assistant coach Joe Sacco said. “He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there, so I think for Malcolm, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”
In his first start since a fractured larynx ended his 2015-16 season back on Feb. 6, Subban, who acknowledged that he felt better coming into this camp than he did a year ago thanks to some increased conditioning drills during his offseason recovery, did admit that there were nerves.
“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” the Toronto, Ont. native said after the loss. “But, I felt just – it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today – practice is a lot different than a game. In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play."
For Subban, it was his first game action in almost eight months, and though he wears even more protection around his neck (the chin of his mask comes down lower now), the focus now becomes on the technical stuff that can only come with more minutes in the crease.
“That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up," Subban said. "Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. But, like I said, the game stuff is more technical stuff like the post steals and stuff. So, just gotta keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”
Under siege throughout the night, Subban came up big for the Bruins with three breakaway stops in the second period, and seemed to track the puck well against a Wings team loaded with speed.
“Those things are pretty big for a goaltender in terms of not letting goals in at a bad time and stuff,” Subban said. “It’s funny, because when that two-on-one came, that’s exactly what I said in my head. I’m like, this can’t go in. It can’t. They just got two quick ones, period is almost over, and you can’t let that go in. My hands feel pretty good, my puck tracking is good, it’s just the game speed. It comes down to getting to that post and sealing it tight, waiting for the next play, that kind of stuff.”
Of the four goals Subban let in on the night, only one really showed some rust in his game, as he struggled to get strong post coverage on a Detroit goal that put Boston even more in the hole.
“I was a little rusty on post coverage and stuff and I got exploited there,” Subban admitted. “Even the second goal; it was a bang-bang play but still, I kind of lost the puck behind the net. I’ve just got to clean that up and definitely try to build on that for next game.”
But you can’t fault Subban on at least two of those goals, as the Red Wings were able to use their speed and skill around the front of the net to simply exploit the seams within the B’s defense and make the club look foolish, as pucks routinely went untouched through two Bruins.
“They’re a team that attacks the net and they go into those areas hard,” Sacco said. “They funnel pucks towards the net. They crash and bang, and, you know, like I said, it’s an area where we need to be strong in front of our goaltender. We had a couple of defensemen that they got to see what it’s like. You know, you’ve got to be able to contain. You’ve got to win battles in the corners.. But they’re a team that goes hard to the net. It’s certainly an area that they took advantage of at times tonight.”
Still, Subban, the projected start for the Providence Bruins with Anton Khudobin the likely backup to Tuukka Rask
in Boston, wants to show more.
“I felt better as the game went on and I’m looking to build on that for next game,” said Subban.
Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can also be read in the New England Hockey Journal magazine. Contact him on Twitter or send him an email at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.