— As we have seen time and time again, goaltending wins championships.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they seemed to have stocked up on quality goaltending for many years to come, and beyond.
Last summer, they inked current starter Tuukka Rask to an eight-year extension. Earlier this summer, they signed former Providence starter Niklas Svedberg to a one-year, one-way deal. And in the Providence pipeline, they have 2012 draft pick Malcolm Subban holding down the fort.
Depth in net is a large part of what helped the B’s claim the Stanley Cup in 2011, and the organization hopes it is what will help them remain one of the league’s most competitive teams, year in and year out, in the future.
“I think it’s a necessary thing to have,” said Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney of depth — and competition — at goaltender. “I think they’re spaced out accordingly to be able to come in and develop at the right [time]. The players themselves will always dictate how quickly they can make it and establish themselves as National Hockey League players, and goaltenders really aren’t any different – but I think the book on goaltending is that you should be patient to allow them to go through some ups and downs and experiences.
“Tuukka is a great example of that — of spending time in the American League, coming up, having an apprenticeship, so to speak, and then getting the net. And Niklas is no different. He’s going to try and go in and be that backstop — you know, the complementary piece to Tuukka. And the other guys are going to move along the path that they're supposed to be.”
With Svedberg moving up to Boston to serve as Rask’s backup, that leaves Subban as the go-to guy in Providence. And as he enters his second season with the P-Bruins, he is ready and eager to take advantage of the opportunity to show what he can do on a regular basis.
“Clearly, he’s an NHL prospect,” said Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. “To sum it up quickly, he had a good year last year and got better form start to finish. Again, I don’t like to speculate on how it will all turn out come October 1, when they get to their numbers, but I’m assuming he’s with us. He’s going to have the opportunity to be the guy for us, and hopefully he takes the ball and runs with it.”
Subban would probably characterize the 2013-14 season as an up-and-down year. He had moments when he excelled, and he had stretches when he struggled, as many young players are prone to have. It’s all part of the adjustment from juniors to the pros. In 33 games with Providence, he compiled a 2.31 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
The biggest adjustment? The workload.
“It’s a lot bigger workload than the OHL — even as a backup, I felt that it was a pretty big workload,” Subban said. “So I got to work toward that over the summer. I know what it felt like, so I got to get on the ice a bit more this summer and make sure that I’m ready going into camp.”
Cassidy believes that for Subban, having one year of pro experience behind him will help him substantially.
“I assume a year pro under his belt he will be better off for it, a little more prepared out of the gate,” Cassidy said. “I think last year, there was a lot of newness for him. But he is a guy [who], I would assume, down the road he will be competing for a goaltending spot here [in Boston]. How far down the road is always hard to project, but he is very athletic. It’s just getting the technical side — being consistent every night — and it’ll be the challenge for him to play up here on a regular basis.”
Usually, when Development Camp rolls around every summer, there are plenty of unfamiliar faces, but Subban’s is one that fans have come to recognize, as this year’s camp was his third. Normally, once a player turns pro, it is unusual for him to continue attending Development Camp, but when the Bruins asked Subban to come this summer, he was 100 percent willing — partly because it is always an enjoyable experience for young players, and partly because he wants to take advantage of any time he can get to work with Boston’s coaches, particularly goalie coach Bob Essensa.
“He welcomed me, obviously, from the first day, and he’s a great guy,” Subban said of Essensa. “That makes it a lot easier, connecting from goalie to goalie coach. Obviously he’s helped me a lot, and I look forward to working with him [more].”
Added Sweeney, “Somebody asked me earlier, why was Malcolm, as a pro, in this camp. As a young goaltender, we felt that the time he would be able to spend with Goalie Bob would be very, very instrumental in continuing his development. So he had a really good first year, had some ups and downs, had to fight through some things and try and battle for net. So I think it is healthy for him to be around kids really his own age really, to be honest with you, even as a first year pro.”
At 20 years old, Subban is younger than plenty of the Development Camp attendees, but given his pro experience — something none of the rest of this year’s players had — he emerged as a leader.
“It’s been fun,” Subban said of camp. “Obviously it’s a great organization, Original Six. They have a lot of experience here, and they do it right. So it’s great to be in an organization like this. Some great prospects and great guys. I love hanging out with these guys.”
As one of the youngest goaltenders currently in the system, Subban has heard plenty over the years about the pipeline, but he isn’t in any rush — nor does he waste his time thinking about if, or when, he will make it to the NHL.
He is confident in his abilities, and he has made it this far. If he keeps going on this track, his time will come. He knows that.
“To be honest, I’m a pretty laid-back guy,” he said. “I don’t think too far ahead. I just think of right now, and what I can control, and that’s getting better on the ice and going into camp with a good mindset and showing them what I can do.”