**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t think Malcolm Subban was the Golden Knights’ answer as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup.
I had concerns about his durability. I wasn’t sure if he had the technical side of things down. And I wasn’t convinced he was reliable.
And for the first two years, I think I was right. Subban had shown a propensity for getting hurt. He let in a lot of soft goals. And his record wasn’t the greatest.
But I had to remind myself he’s still only 25. Goalies take longer to develop. And I have never questioned his work ethic or his commitment to his craft.
Still, this is a results-driven business. He knows that. So when Fleury left the team for 10 days to deal with the death of his father in Montreal, here was Subban’s chance to prove to doubters like myself he does indeed deserve to be part of the Golden Knights’ present, and, perhaps more importantly, their future.
Watching him perform the last two weeks, I came away with the vision that Subban is making progress. He is showing a good compete level between the pipes. He is coming up big when he needs to and the soft goals he had been allowing in the past were less frequent.
I also think he was aided by the fact that the guys in front of him are playing better, particularly his defensemen. Nic Hague is developing well and I like the pairing of Hague with Shea Theodore. Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt seem to have recaptured their chemistry playing alongside each other and Deryk Engelland’s game has picked up noticeably the last three weeks.
Perhaps it’s due in part to the changes in philosophy when it comes to defending as the Knights have used more of a zone than a man-to-man coverage in their end. Maybe it’s a confidence thing. But the Knights have allowed just 16 goals in their last six games and Subban has had a hand in that.
He also appeared to be gaining the trust of his coach and his teammates.
Subby’s been terrific. He’s given us a chance every night. -Gerard Gallant
You can see his confidence growing every game. You see the way he moves the puck, the way he’s talking to guys back there. He’s starting to settle in and he’s more comfortable. When you’re playing with confidence, you feel like you can take on the world and he’s been awesome for us. It was an awful circumstance that happened (to Fleury) but he stepped in, took advantage of it and he made some big saves for us. -Nate Schmidt
Subban was unable to close the door against Dallas on Nov. 25. But he was terrific two nights later at Nashville as the Knights staged their miraculous comeback in the final seconds of the third period and went on to win in overtime. He was excellent in the Nov. 29 shootout win over Arizona and best of all, he was stellar on the road in wins over the Rangers Monday and the Devils Tuesday. And while he was on the losing end of the 4-3 OT loss to the Islanders Thursday, he was remarkable when he needed to be.
With Fleury away, Subban was 4-1-1. Any temptation to play Garret Sparks in Newark was abated and though Fleury rejoined the team on Long Island Thursday, he probably needed to be eased back into action.
It also sent a message to Subban from Gallant that he believes in him and that had to do wonders for his confidence.
It’s nice. You want to have an opportunity to contribute. Obviously, it helps a lot. I feel like technically this was my best game. It definitely helps your confidence when you’re playing well. -Subban after the Islanders game Thursday
Fleury is now back. He’ll likely be in net today against the Rangers at T-Mobile Arena and he’ll continue to play the bulk of the games. Going into today’s game, the Knights are 15-11-5 with 35 points, in third place in the Pacific Division and are just four points behind first-place Edmonton. Yes, there are teams right on their tail, namely Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose, but all in all, Vegas is in good shape thanks to the successful road trip which saw them garner five out of a possible six points.
Subban proved that he can be trusted. He has shown durability during this stretch of six games. He performed well against several different styles of play.
For Subban and for the Knights, this could be a turning point. Perhaps he is the guy the team can rely on going forward when Fleury needs a day off or should he miss an extended stretch of time due to injury.
Is he Vegas’ goalie of the future? The jury may still be out on that. But I’m focusing on the present.
And for now, he has won me over.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**