Patience, poise, positivity guiding Subban with Amerks

Photo: Micheline V

📝 by Suzie Cool | AHL On The Beat

The Rochester Americans are riding a three-game win streak coming off the holiday break, and it is largely due to goaltender Malcolm Subban regaining his confidence in the crease.

“I’m pretty good,” said Subban, when asked how he’s genuinely feeling when between the pipes right now. “I feel like the game slowed down, I’m seeing the puck and gaining some confidence. You know, confidence is a big thing.”

Subban isn’t wrong. Confidence hasn’t been something that’s been easy for the netminder to find over the last couple of years, especially when regular playing time wasn’t readily available. After the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2019-20 campaign and forced a condensed campaign in 2020-21, Subban was then faced with another bout of adversity when an injury put a premature end to his 2021-22 season in just his fourth game with the Buffalo Sabres.

Subban began last season with the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, before being acquired by Buffalo for future considerations on Dec. 2, 2021. He re-signed with the Sabres in July, and while sights were set on starting the 2022-23 campaign healthy and ready to go in Rochester, the preseason had a different plan for Subban. In the Amerks’ preseason finale on Oct. 9 against the Utica Comets, he suffered yet another lower-body injury.

“It’s tough,” said Subban. “I’m an easy-going guy. I like to live in the present. I don’t like to think too much in the future or the past, but it’s tough when you go through something like that and for so long.”

After another month of being sidelined, Subban was finally cleared to play and ready to go on Nov. 18, against none other than the Comets. Subban made 22 saves in his Amerks debut, a 3-2 loss.

Since then, Subban has most definitely settled in quite nicely and is starting to look like his old self once again.

“He’s barely played in the last couple of years,” stated Amerks head coach Seth Appert, “and as a goalie that is very difficult. It’s difficult for any player, but certainly as a goalie because so much of goaltending is timing and the feel of the game and the tracking of the puck.”

With Rochester this season, Subban has appeared in seven games, boasting a 5-2-0 record. He’s currently riding a three-game win streak that all started with him buckling down in an impressive 4-3 shootout victory over the first-place Marlies in his hometown of Toronto on Dec. 10.

“He’s been playing better and better with every start, but I think that’s probably the first game that he probably feels that he won for the team,” said Appert.

Following that 23-save effort against the Marlies, Subban went on to have himself a 75-save weekend in Rochester’s two-game sweep over the Charlotte Checkers, propelling the Amerks into their annual holiday break on a high note. A night after making a regular-season career-high 45 saves in a near-perfect performance on Dec. 16, Subban had a flawless effort by stopping all 30 shots he faced to backstop the Amerks to a 4-0 shutout win over the Checkers. It was his first shutout since 2021 with the Blackhawks.

“I think he’s just getting his game timing back,” said Appert. “That’s something I’ve said publicly, but also to him all year… It’s just going to take time.

“He’s getting his feel and his timing and his confidence back to where it’s been in past years for him.”

And Subban agrees: a lot of getting his game back to form was getting the timing down and remaining calm in high-pressure situations.

“The timing and just the game slowing down,” explained Subban. “I feel like you start to calm down a lot and not be as over-aggressive and moving too much. You start to settle down a bit in there and I just got a little bit more efficient.”

Through all the adversity Subban has faced over the last few years, one thing has always remained constant — the contagious smile he manages to keep on his face while giving that same gift to his teammates and staff around him.

“In the big picture, living your life every day is a blessing,” he said. “I kind of keep that close to me. My dad would always say, ‘Be yourself because everyone else is taken.’

“When things get hard, I just try to try to be a good person and just try to be happy.”