The score from the Blackhawks' 5-1 season-opening loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning would suggest Hawks goalie Malcolm Subban had a rough night, and a rough first start for Chicago. While he did, it wasn't all on him.
As indicated in the offseason by the franchise, the Blackhawks are in a bit of a rebuilding mode. As some youngsters find their way, there will be more pucks and quality chances near the Blackhawks' net, which was the case on Wednesday. Plus, the Hawks were without their top two centers Jonathan Toews (illness) and Kirby Dach (wrist) for the opener.
"He made some good saves. Obviously five go in, he’s not going to be happy," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of Subban on Zoom after the game. "At the same time, we have to do a better job of limiting things, boxing out, a couple of rebound goals. As the game went on, too much off the rush. We turned pucks over and it’s hard to defend when you turn pucks over, whether it’s in our end, on the breakout, or in the neutral zone. But he made some good saves for us. something to build on."
Subban, who saved 28 of 33 Tampa Bay shots on Wednesday, made a costly error when he coughed up a juicy rebound to allow an Ondrej Palat power play goal halfway through the first period to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Rebound control is something Subban has had trouble with in the past and he's fully aware. The goalie spent time at training camp working on it.
"Just continue to try and prepare better for games," Subban said after the game of adjusting his rebound control moving forward. "It's the first time in a while but that's not an excuse, you've got to be ready when the puck drops and I felt like tracking the puck, I was a little behind, and that led to some rebounds early on. But I found it later on in the game, like [in the] second period, for the most part."
Then, in more of a freak play than a mistake, the 27-year-old netminder didn't spot a loose puck behind him and booted it into the back of the net at 16:18 of the first.
"I kinda lost it, wasn't sure where it was, and then it ended up in the net," Subban said of the deflating goal. "That was a tough one. You don't want to give up a goal like that against a team like that, you can't really afford to. I've got to find a way to not lose sight of that puck."
Just 1:39 later the dam broke after Anthony Cirelli got his blade on a puck to deflect it over Subban for a goal he had no chance of stopping for a 3-0 deficit.
Midway through the second period, Subban had a snowball's chance in heck to stop Steven Stamkos' firepower after trying to go post to post to make the save as Tampa moved the puck around on the man advantage. The Lightning's final tally of the game came when Subban was screened and unable to recover when a wide-open Brayden Point got the puck in front.
During the course of the game, there were almost as many athletic highlight-reel saves as there were goals that Malcolm wanted back.
"I felt like I made some good saves," Subban said. "That second one...you can't give up a goal like that against a team like that. I felt in the first period, there were a couple rebounds that can't go out there and their goals were generated off rebounds. Maybe if I kept those and made some stops then they don't develop that opportunity. Overall, I made some nice saves but I've got to look to build on that game."
Dylan Strome scored the lone Hawks goal late in the third for the 5-1 final score.
Subban went 9-7-3 with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage in 20 games with the Vegas Golden Knights last year before getting traded to Chicago at the Feb. 24 deadline.
Prior to Wednesday's game, Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen would also be getting a crack at the net.
The Blackhawks play their second of eight matchups against the Lightning on Friday.