A rough welcome to Boston for Subban

A rough welcome to Boston for Subban
September 20, 2013, 12:00 am
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON - There’s little question that Malcolm Subban expected his first game in Boston to go markedly better as a member of the Bruins.

He looked good enough after two periods that the Bruins coaching staff opted to leave him in for the final 20 minutes despite being down, 4-1. Then the roof came crashing down in the third period for Subban and a group of teammates that failed miserably in front of him, and it got a little ugly for the 19-year-old in an 8-2 exhibition loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Thursday night.

It got to the point in the third where Subban allowed three goals in a 1:17 span, and the B’s fans began to serenade him with mock cheers each time he made a legitimate save on the puck.

“"No matter what I did the pucks just found its way in,” said Subban, who had looked pretty solid in a scoreless 30 minutes against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. “[There were] a couple bad bounces, but I didn’t do my part tonight.

“[The Wings] are a good team and it can only get better from here. I’m looking at it in a positive way. It’s probably a good thing now I can be more focused, obviously, and start the games better.”

The humbling defeat affected the former first-round pick strongly enough that Subban spent roughly 20 minutes running up and down the TD Garden stairs all by himself about a half-hour following the loss. Subban indicated to CSNNE reporter Kevin Walsh that it wasn’t part of his normal postgame routine, and it’s pretty clear that was a lot more than your average, garden variety defeat.

Debuts don’t come much rougher in a Black and Gold uniform, but it should also give him plenty of teachable moments to work on when he’s inevitably sent to AHL training camp in the next few weeks. The first two goals allowed in the first period weren’t Subban’s fault at all, as second and third whacks at rebounds ended up getting past him and into the net.

Then things started to go awry in the second when a poorly timed line change combined with an out-of-position Zach Trotman parted the waters for Henrik Zetterberg to rip one home from the slot. Six minutes later Danny DeKeyser beat Subban to the short side post on a play where the Bruins goaltender should have been there in time to shut things off, but he was just a little tardy covering his ground.

At that point, the Bruins decided to keep Subban out there for the third period after a Jarome Iginla goal made it a 4-1 score in favor of the Winged Wheels.

“We’ve talked to him already. It was a decision that was made after the second period; he had only given up one bad goal at that point. I thought the [DeKeyser] goal was one that he could have had,” said Claude Julien. “After that the fifth and probably the seventh one are three of the goals [he would have liked back].

“Although he had given up a bad goal in the second, we wanted him to fight through it. This is a good learning thing for a goaltender to see this is what he’s going to be facing, and that he has to fight through those situations. It was one of those nights that, unfortunately, I think our guys in front of him certainly left him out to dry a little bit. We made some real bad mistakes. It’s easy to point the finger at [Subban] but if anything I think we all have to take the blame for that and that’s for leaving him out to dry.”

In all likelihood Subban won’t get another minute of playing time in the preseason as Chad Johnson is expected to start Saturday’s road game against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Another round of training camp cuts will come, and the teenager will suit up for Providence while speeding into the minor league development phase of his hockey career.

In some ways it was a fitting first NHL training camp for the promising young netminder as he works to refine his technique and really perfect his glove hand. Subban experienced the undeniable high of squaring off against big brother P.K. Subban at the Bell Centre in Montreal while keeping the Canadiens off the board.

He also felt the agony of wretched, one-sided defeat against a loaded Red Wings team that traveled to Boston, and will probably replay the Pavel Datsyuk bullet over his glove hand a thousand times wondering how he’ll ever be able to stop it from going in. Perhaps some of those thoughts were spinning through his mind as he bounded up and down the Garden stairs wondering where it all went wrong.

The good news is that there are enough good leaders in the B’s dressing room that will make sure Subban need not shoulder the blame all on his own.

“We hung [Subban] out to dry on countless occasions; two on ones, odd man rushes, and then they got shots we didn’t pick up anybody in front. That’s another thing we’ve just got to bare down and work on,” said Matt Bartkowski. “That’s not really even a system thing or anything, just identifying your guy and then picking him up and playing him hard.

“We’ve just got to bare down on those guys.  You can’t fault [Subban] for anything tonight, if it was his first game or his fiftieth, it really doesn’t matter, we left him out to dry.”

Someday, Subban might even be able to laugh about the time his first game in Boston turned into an utter, defenseless train wreck. But judging by his reaction postgame, it might be a little while before Subban is ready to chalk it up an experience that made him a stronger goalie, mentally or physically.