BOSTON - The four goals allowed do not tell the entire story. For Malcolm Subban, Wednesday night's performance was about so much more.
For the first time in almost eight months, the Bruins goaltender suited up for game action.
Sure, it was just preseason. But the Black & Gold's 5-1 loss to Detroit at TD Garden was still an important marker in the Toronto native's recovery from a fractured larynx, suffered in February when he was hit in the throat with a puck.
Subban made 30 saves in just two periods of play - his playing time was determined prior to the game - and came away from the contest feeling like he is on the road to normalcy as his fourth professional season approaches.
"To be honest, no," said Subban, when asked if he thought about the injury at all while between the pipes. "A whole lot of credit to the players in practice - I really haven't had to worry about getting hit. You've got some pretty good shooters, some pretty accurate shooters. I never really thought of it, it didn't cross my mind."
The 2012 first-round pick has taken a number of steps to reinforce the equipment around his neck area. He now wears a neck guard, a plastic dangler that hangs over his throat, and a helmet with an extended chin.
As a result, Subban has had little to worry about from a health standpoint this preseason. His sole focus has been on getting back up to game speed, which he feels he did at times against the Red Wings.
"It was great to finally get back out there," said Subban. "Obviously, really rusty, to be honest. I felt, not so much the goals even, but shots in general, especially in the first. It was the first time in a long time that I can say I felt not up to speed.
"But other than that, I played pretty well….I think it's a great game to build off, for myself and the team."
Subban, funny enough, was most comfortable when he was under fire. He was peppered with 34 shots - three of which were breakaways, including a 2-on-0, in the second - in just 40 minutes of play.
It was the technical side of his game that posed the most trouble. The 22-year-old failed to seal off the post on the Red Wings' third goal and said he found himself getting a bit lost in the speed of the game.
"It wasn't so much the shots, it was the movement of the puck around, obviously just getting back in to the flow of the game," said Subban, who last played on February 5 in Providence.
"In terms of straight shots, in practice you can work on that stuff, the game stuff is more technical stuff like the post seals. Definitely felt a little bit behind, but as the game went on in the second - other than the third goal - I felt pretty good.
"I thought my game was getting better as the game went on."
Assistant coach Joe Sacco, who along with Bruce Cassidy is overseeing the Bruins with head coach Claude Julien away at the World Cup of Hockey, agreed that it was a solid outing for Subban.
"He faced some quality scoring chances out there," said Sacco. "The ones that went in, he'd probably like to have back. But when you look at his overall performance for the two periods, he played pretty solid for us.
"He made some big saves, some timely saves, and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, despite the score, he had a good night."
Subban stopped the first 15 shots he faced, before former Harvard standout Kyle Criscuolo and Steve Ott scored off of deflections just 21 seconds apart in the last minute-and-a-half of the first period. The Red Wings' speed and ability to charge hard to the net was difficult for the Bruins to adjust to early on.
"I've played them a few times now in exhibition and they like to get shots to the net with traffic, a couple of their goals were like that," said Subban. "They definitely exploited that, for sure. It was good to get those shots from around the net and get back into the game in that way."
In the end, it was all part of the learning experience for Subban, who is just happy to be back on the ice.Video: Subban on playing his first game since February
News and Notes
- Second-year pro Austin Czarnik tallied the Bruins lone goal of the evening. It was another solid game for the 23-year-old, who also notched an assist in the Black & Gold's preseason opener on Monday. "He's playing well. He moves well. He's on the puck. He competes, and that's the thing you're looking for really," said Sacco. "We know there's going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones, but we're looking to see who's got that competitive fire. Who's going to go out there and who can compete at a high level, and I know he's not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is, and he's had two pretty good games so far."
- Zach Senyshyn played in his first game following an appendectomy earlier this month. The 2015 first-round pick landed a team-high five shots on goal in 15 minutes, 3 seconds of ice time. "I think he's getting up to speed," said Sacco. "I think he's missed some time and I think that's caused him to have a setback. He's obviously got great speed, and that's the thing that jumps out at you when you watch him play. He's a young player that's just got to continue to get stronger physically, as well, but certainly he has that element that we're looking for as an organization with that speed."
- Charlestown native Matt Grzelcyk played his first game at TD Garden with the Spoked-B on his chest. A number of his family members were in the crowd to see the Boston University alum's debut. Grzelcyk played 19 minutes, 49 seconds - the third-highest ice time among Bruins - and assisted on Czarnik's tally in the second period. "Honestly, it didn't really hit me when I was out there," Grzelcyk said of playing at home. "I just tried to go out there and play as if it was another and try not to catch my eyes wandering between shifts or anything like that. But I've played in this building a couple times, so I was able to settle my nerves a little bit."
Video: Grzelcyk makes NHL preseason debut