Subban is obviously a highly touted former first round pick, and he transitioned well during his first season at the AHL level. For the first time in his career, Subban was the backup, while Finnish netminder Niklas Svedberg grabbed the majority of the playing time.
“It was challenging to be honest,” Subban said about being a backup. “It’s something you’re not used to (because) you’re used to playing a lot of games and being the go-to guy. It was kind of tough being the secondary guy, but I just had to stay focused mentally. Staying focused mentally was the hardest part for me. You don’t play as much, but when you get a chance to play you (have) to play well.”
Playing in a backup role was certainly a test for Subban, but he flourished during the opportunities he received with the Providence Bruins. Last season, Subban finished with a 15-10-5 record, 2.31 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, and one shutout.
“It was fun, obviously,” Subban said. “(It was) just good experience this year, and last year was huge for my development. Just adjusting to the game, seeing where you belong, what kind of style you have to play and obviously you don’t want to change too much. I made a couple adjustments (going) into the AHL and it went well.”
With Svedberg set to become Tuukka Rask’s backup in Boston, Subban will have a chance to compete for the No. 1 spot in Providence. That being said, he isn’t taking anything for granted and will likely have to earn the spot. The Bruins signed 25-year-old goaltender Jeremy Smith to a one-year, two-way contract earlier this summer. He was a second round pick by the Nashville Predators in 2007, and will be Subban’s main competition for the starting role.
“Only time will tell,” Subban said about the starting job in Providence. “Obviously, I felt that I had a pretty good year, and I’m ready to take on that role this year. There is still a lot of work to do…I have to come in and challenge for the spot.”
Although, Subban is the first round pick and seems to be on everyone’s radar, don’t forget about University of North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntryre, who is coming off a trip to the Frozen Four.
“(Depth) is a good thing from an organizational standpoint,” Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney said. “It’s healthy for the competition. It’s a necessary thing to have, and they’re spaced out accordingly to be able to come in and develop at the right time.”
When the Bruins selected McIntyre (who recently changed his surname from Gothberg) 165th overall in 2010, he was considered a long-term project. Now, he is one of the top goaltenders at the collegiate level. Last season for North Dakota, he posted a 20-10-3 record, 1.99 goals-against average, .926 save percentage, and three shutouts.
“Once you get one year under your belt, you gain confidence,” McIntyre said. “You kind of know the ins and outs and learn the ropes. It’s something you take every day and build on. I built a lot of confidence from the end of last season.”
In the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game against the University of Minnesota, McIntyre found himself in a goalie duel against Gophers’ goalie, Adam Wilcox. Unfortunately, a shorthanded breakaway buzzer-beater got past McIntyre and Minnesota won, 2-1, to advance to the National Championship game. Wilcox won the goaltending duel, stopping 35 shots to McIntyre’s 26.
“(Wilcox) beat me,” McIntyre said of the game. “It was pretty special. He’s from Minnesota; I’m from Minnesota too, so we grew up playing against each other. To do it in that big of a stage in the National Championship semifinals was pretty awesome. It’s something I got great experience out of, but in the end I’m going to use it for motivation.”
That motivation will at least keep McIntyre at the collegiate level for his junior season in 2014-15. It would probably make sense for him to stay given the Bruins’ depth at the professional level with Rask, Svedberg and Subban.
“The players dictate when they’re ready,” Sweeney said. “(McIntyre) wasn’t ready to go to college after we drafted him. He spent a couple years extra in the USHL and played in a lot of games. He was much more prepared when he went to UND. He was a sophomore last year but he was able to take the pressure in situations and do a nice job with it.”
The Bruins appear to be strong in goal for the foreseeable future, with McIntyre and Subban being the main reasons for the optimism at a very important position.
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