Every team needs a reliable goaltender.
Coming into the 2013 World Junior Championship, goaltending was Canada’s biggest question mark. It appears the problem has now been solved.
Malcolm Subban has stepped up to the plate for his country, and his country has never been more proud to call him their own.
“I feel like making those saves obviously helps a lot and making them a little fancy gives the team a little confidence,” said Subban before Canada’s 2-1 victory over the Americans. “Just knowing your coaches have the confidence in you, that you’re going to play all the games, that helps a lot obviously as well.”
Not only does Subban have the confidence of his coaches, but he now has a whole country on his side, too.
When Subban was named Canada’s Boxing Day-starter, critics were quick to jump all over him, saying he hadn’t earned the right to being number one.
Those critics believed Jordan Binnington of the Owen Sound Attack deserved the role simply based on his play in the pre-tournament games. They didn’t understand just how many factors went into deciding who the starter would be.
Subban, who plays for the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League, has experienced international play in the past, most recently with Canada’s Under-18 team. During his experiences wearing red and white, he’s excelled between the pipes.
A first-round choice of the Boston Bruins, Subban is often lauded for his athleticism, something that goes back to his days of participating in track and field.
Following Canada’s successful game against the U.S., the critics have quieted down.
“No one deserves it more than him,” said forward Ryan Strome of Subban’s excellent play. “He proved a lot of people wrong. We knew he had it in him. He quieted a lot people.”
Fans across Canada now believe Subban’s the man to lead his country to gold. It just took a little longer than it should have.
— Wheeling Problems (@wheelingprobs) December 30, 2012
Subban’s teammates said after the Canada-U.S. game that they could tell he was in the zone long before puckdrop.
Asked Canadians when they could tell Subban was locked in; Camara: ‘Breakfast’, MacKinnon: ‘Bus ride’, McNeill: ‘Warm-ups’
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 30, 2012
“I’m really proud of him,” Canada’s head coach Steve Spott said. “Goaltending … has been under the radar in our country for a couple of years. It’s a big moment for Malcolm. It’s a big moment for our hockey club.”
Key stops, including one made on a first period John Gaudreau breakaway, kept Subban sharp throughout the game. Holding off a barrage of shots during an early second period penalty kill demonstrated his focus. Losing this contest was not an option.
Though Canada was missing two forwards in Boone Jenner and J.C. Lipon, and was outshot 37 to 32, their goaltender ensured that everything would be just fine.
Their next game against the Russians will be another competitive challenge. The Russian roster features offensive weapons such as Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Kucherov, and Nail Yakupov. Never mind that Russia also has two of the tournament’s best goalies in Andrei Makarov and Andrei Vasilevski.
Canada’s netminder knows there are still plenty of challenges ahead, so he doesn’t want to be focused on the past for too long.
“It’s just one game,” said Subban. “Just trying to do everything I can.”
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.