BostonBruins.com — For a goaltender, the shootout is a time to shine.
While the natural flow of a hockey game can disrupt a goalie’s focus or technique during regulation or overtime, the shootout’s spotlight serves as a one-on-one, who has the better repertoire showdown with skaters whose offensive exploits can often overshadow the man in the crease.
Unfortunately, for those facing off against Malcolm Subban and the Belleville Bulls, it’s the Bruins goaltending prospect who usually has the better arsenal.
“We’re all very excited about [his play], and it certainly shows up in the shootout,” said Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney.
Of all the impressive statistics the 18-year-old netminder has compiled this season, the most dominant of the lot remains his stinginess in those game- deciding penalty shot contests. Subban is currently riding a 10-shootout undefeated streak, which dates back to his rookie season in the OHL in 2010-2011. It’s been 699 days since Subban’s last shootout loss, which came on January 1, 2011, when the netminder had just turned 16.
“He enjoys center stage,” said Sweeney. “He realizes that it’s mano-a-mano in those situations, and your team needs you in order to garner an extra point, and in the new NHL it’s a big part of success of teams making the playoffs often times.
“We’re excited about where he’s at in terms of his development from the shootout perspective as well as his overall game.”
However, Subban’s efficiency does not start and end after the game’s 65th minute.
The goaltender is near the top of the OHL in just about every statistical category. Subban, now 13-6-3 on the campaign, ranks in the top five in goals-against average (2.23), save percentage (.930), and shutouts (2), while his wins (13) rank him in the top-10.
Most importantly for Belleville, Subban has been the anchor for the team through the first part of its season.
“Malcolm is off to a really solid start,” Sweeney said. “He played well in the Subway Series, looking forward to the upcoming World Junior Camp, and his athleticism [is what we’ve noticed].”
When Subban last spoke to BostonBruins.com, the goalie said he felt he was adapting more to the OHL game.
Now, it might be the rest of the OHL’s turn to adapt to Subban.
His Belleville Bulls currently sit atop the East Division of the Eastern Conference and what jumps out from the league statistics is that Belleville has managed its top spot in the standings despite scoring the fewest goals.
But for Subban, the charge is to continue to produce at the junior level, all while fine-tuning parts of his game to prepare for the NHL.
“His athleticism speaks for itself,” Sweeney said. “His ability to get across the net, to challenge shooters and recover, make that secondary save.
“Obviously all goaltenders work on tracking, and you realize the size of the players at the NHL level, he’s going to have to continue to battle that. His recoverability is outstanding.”
Earlier this season, Subban provided some similar insight.
“I think the main thing was just to get ready on time that I’m sort coming out, and at the next level they’re coming down so much faster so you’ve got to get out and cut down the angle,” Subban said, recalling advice from Bruins management and coaching staff. “I think that was the biggest thing, just not getting too wide in my stance, just being able to get wide and move around, and have less stress on my body.”
But it hasn’t only been the Bruins organization that’s taken notice of Subban’s development as the prospect also participated for Team OHL in the Subway Super Series against Team Russia, and is a likely candidate to see the ice for Team Canada during the upcoming World Junior Championship in Russia.
“It would be pretty huge,” Subban told TheHockeyNews.com. “It’s every young goaltenders dream to represent their country and play well.”
And as for what’s allowed the 18-year-old to be so successful early on, Subban was asked to give a scouting report for fans who haven’t yet seen him play.
“I just try to stay calm in net,” he told reporters, “and try to give my team a chance to win every night.”
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