Young Boston Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban, the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, was pulled from tonight’s 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild after giving up three goals in the second period. The first two, a deflection by Charlie Coyle and a wide open chance for Chris Stewart, came just twelve seconds apart early in the period. The third was a soft slap shot by Ryan Suter minutes later that would have been saved by most goalies in the league. With both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin sidelined, the Bruins called up both Subban and Zane McIntyre for the game, and chose to give the latter his first taste of NHL action midway through the game rather than stick with the former any longer.
If Subban’s performance in his 2016-17 Boston debut sounds familiar, that’s because he put on a similarly disappointing performance in his first and only other NHL game back in 2014-15. After shutting out the St. Louis Blues in the first period (albeit facing only three shots), Subban allowed three goals on three shots to begin the second and was promptly pulled from the game with a .500 save percentage. Following tonight’s efforts, Subban’s career percentage at the highest level stands at .750, which, of course, is just awful.
However, you can’t determine the future of a goalie after just two games in the NHL. Many would likely think that Subban’s numbers in the AHL tell a different story. They don’t. In fact, there’s a reason that the 22-year-old has only seen two games of NHL action. The former standout for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls has not been able to put it together since turning pro. While his numbers have not been terrible, they have not lived up to his first-round hype. Subban’s first season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL, in 2013-14, is his best to date. A 2.31 GAA and .920 save percentage in 33 appearances excited the then-hopeful Bruins fan base that they had an elite young net minder waiting in the wings to be the backup to franchise keeper Rask. But those numbers failed to improve in 2014-15, as Subban posted a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage in 35 games with Providence, and made his disastrous NHL debut as well. In each of his first two seasons with the P-Bruins, Subban failed to play in more than half of the team’s games, and going into last season, the title of top young Bruins goaltender was still open. Enter former Hobey Baker finalist McIntyre, a sixth round pick of Boston in 2010 who went on to be one of the best goalies in the NCAA for years playing for the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Despite miserable numbers in his first pro season, McIntyre was given an equal share in net with Subban, and Subban did not do enough to assert himself as the starter. Subban would eventually suffer a season-ending throat injury in 2015-16, which ended the best streak of his career – a nine-game winning streak with impeccable numbers – but he still ended the season with just a 2.46 GAA and .911 save percentage.
So far this season, it is clear who is now on top in the battle of young Bruins goalies. In three games with Providence, McIntyre has a 0.44 GAA and a .977 save percentage. Subban? A 4.50 GAA and an .846 save percentage in his first four appearances. As The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver points out, Subban has had trouble with giving up quick back-to-back goals like he did tonight on multiple occassions with Providence already this season. Given Subban’s collapse tonight, and McIntyre’s solid performance in relief, it seems that now it is official that Malcolm Subban is no longer the Bruins best young goalie. Is he a complete career bust? It’s still too early to tell. Subban is in the final year of his entry-level contract, and assuming he is not traded or selected by Las Vegas in the Expansion Draft, Subban will be back to work in Providence again next year, potentially with only Daniel Vladar as competition. If he has not been able to make the jump to an NHL regular by the end of his next contract, then it will be fair to call him a disappointment. Perhaps P.K. Subban’s brother needs a change of scenery as well. It’s no secret that the Subban name is not exactly treated with much love in Boston, and there could be comfort issues with the organization. Maybe he’s still not totally recovered from his injury. A brutal injury to a fragile and exposed area may have shaken his confidence. Or possibly he just needs some more time to develop and will eventually pan out for the Bruins. Subban did start playing the position late and has often been described as more of a raw athlete than a polished net minder. The one thing that is certain right now is that if Subban wants to play in Boston ever again, his play needs to get much better. Until then, it will be hard for Subban to shake the “bust” label.