When the San Jose Sharks scored against the Vegas Golden Knights in less than 30 seconds on Monday night, I audibly sighed and said to my sisters, “It’s going to be that kind of game.” I was not prepared for the 7-3 beating Vegas was going to put down on the second half of a back-to-back, especially with Malcolm Subban starting both games.
Then came Thursday night’s home shutout of the Winnipeg Jets, where Subban record his first career doughnut (Krispy Kremes for all!) with 20 saves in the VGK’s 5-0 win over the Jets.
My initial reaction prior to the San Jose game wasn’t a dig at Subban’s talents or abilities, I just expected the whole team to be tired and leave Subban hanging out on the ice as they have in previous back-to-back situations with him in net.
Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
With starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury out with a day-to-day lower body injury, Subban is stepping up to lead the Knights in the last handful of games before playoff season begins. This has some fans worried, as any goal scored against Subban means social media uproar about his time in the game, but the fan base should have more faith in Subban.
Malcolm Subban save percentage in road games as a Golden Knights: .898
Malcolm Subban save percentage in home games as a Golden Knights: .917
— Tyler Bischoff (@Bischoff_Tyler) March 19, 2019
As Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski says in his book Take Your Eye Off the Puck, “If you don’t stop one, you get the blame. Every single person in front of you, from the left defenseman to the cotton candy vendor, can fail to do their job, and it’ll be your fault.”
Such is the case when Subban starts in net for the Knights. That’s not to say that Subban is completely blameless in every goal against this season, but he also takes a lot more flack for the ones that go in. I would estimate this reaction is 90 percent due to the fact that Subban plays under, and therefore in compared to, the future hall of famer, no-way-is-he-human, Fleury.
The GOAT, if you will. The other 10 percent comes from the fact that no one likes to see the puck in the back of their team’s net and the goaltender is the easiest target to blame it on. As far as back up goalies go, Subban is pretty fantastic and should be appreciated more.
Before going into the nitty-gritty details of Subban’s short career thus far, there is one statistic that clearly shows why everyone should want him in the net — he is PERFECT when it comes to shootouts. As in, he has never been scored against when it comes to a shootout. Not once. How many other goalies can say that? That’s something Flower can’t even boast (since the comparisons between the two are being made, albeit unfairly). On Thursday, Feb. 28, Subban extended his record of shootout goals saved to 18-0 against the Florida Panthers, giving the Knights a much-needed win at the beginning of the Stone Age.
Games don’t often go to shootouts, so this stat may seem somewhat irrelevant, but it also translates well into the regulation game. Before that shootout win, I was extremely nervous every time a player got a breakaway to go one-on-one with Subban. Now, I’m calm and collected knowing this is his bread and butter. Shootouts and breakaways are nerve-wracking, and it’s 100 percent on the goalie to make the save, but Subban always looks in his element when it happens.
Nice timely save from Subban. pic.twitter.com/K61SJim5xl
— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 19, 2019
When fans should be worried is in the first period of any game Subban starts, as this is when he is scored on the most often. According to SinBin.Vegas, Subban has to get settled into a game before to bursts out of his cocoon like a beautiful butterfly to make those incredible saves. This also means the other team has 20 full minutes to put Vegas in a hole before Subban gets to his game, which is not ideal. In that awful, no-good, very bad game against Calgary earlier this season when the Knights were routed 7-2, the Flames scored 5 of their goals in the first period.
It’s not a myth, Malcolm Subban really does get better as games wear on.
1st Period – 21 goals allowed
2nd Period – 12 goals allowed
3rd Period – 9 goals allowed
And it’s not just that… https://t.co/MPO4xmPXvz
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) March 19, 2019
Considering he has only started 14 games this season, a little rust should be expected. Yes, some of the goals Subban has allowed have been “soft” — meaning he was easily able to stop them but didn’t — but he’s also only 25 years old. He has a lot of training and growing to do, which can’t happen unless he starts more games. The games he has started this year, especially at the beginning, haven’t given him a fair chance to show his worth. His first three starts this season came on the road against playoff contending teams. He also started second in a lot of back-to-back games with the team in front of him being less than spectacular. Now, with Fleury out, Subban should be getting better and better as his playing time becomes more consistent and his confidence grows. He’s just getting started.
While Fleury’s injury seems to have been coincidentally timed as he prepares to welcome baby no. 3 with his wife and less than a dozen games before the playoffs, he will be getting some much-needed rest after a fast 59 starts this season. Don’t worry, Flower, SUUUUBBB has it locked down.
My oh my, this is a beauty. pic.twitter.com/DbtUNSMTIj
— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 19, 2019