HELSINKI, Finland - Malcolm Subban turned 19 on Friday so his teammates serenaded him with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" during breakfast. Hours later, after practice, Canada's world junior coaches sang his praises.
"I was very happy with him," said goalie coach Ron Tugnutt in assessing Subban's performance during Finland's 3-2 win over Canada on Thursday. "I think there's still a little bit more there, but, first game over here, I was very impressed with his game. Personally, I have no problems with the goals that were scored."
Two of the three goals allowed by Subban came with Canada two men down and head coach Steve Spott made it clear he feels it was a lack of mental toughness and not poor goaltending, which did-in his club.
"I thought Malcolm was good," Spott said. "When you look at the scoring chances that we gave up he stood tall. When you put your goaltender down three versus five then you're putting him in a real difficult position so I thought he was solid. He made some key saves at key times. We lost that game by one goal, because of discipline and putting ourselves in a bad position."
The game-winning goal was the source of much of the criticism directed at the Belleville Bulls goalie, but Tugnutt absolved Subban of any blame for that one as well.
"We have great video that I went through and, I don't think anyone knows, but the last goal was actually tipped," he said. "I was completely comfortable with Malcolm's game. I thought he made some key saves at key times to give us a chance and he'll just get better."
"I saw it going up and my glove started going up," Subban said when asked about the third Finnish goal, "and then it started flipping down and I tried to get to it, but it was too late. It's whatever. I still got to do what I can. Obviously [the deflection] makes it a little more challenging."
TSN analyst Jamie McLennan noted following the game that Subban, who has a .932 save percentage in 26 games in the OHL this season, simply doesn't look as comfortable as he has in the past. And, on that, Tugnutt agrees.
"He's one of those guys where it takes a little while to get used to his surroundings and, you know, he's going to calm down," Tugnutt said. "I thought he was a little bit too explosive. I want to see a calmer Malcolm in net and as the game went on I saw that. I have no concerns about his game."
Subban, who was the only goalie with a sub-.900 save percentage at the selection camp, admits his game is not where he wants it to be.
"Obviously it's challenging," he said. "It's a lot different style of game over here as opposed to playing in the OHL so I'm not used that. A lot better shooters here. It's a lot faster game so it's harder to look through traffic. I know on the second goal I was trying to look through and a guy jumped right in front of me at the last second. It's going to take time to adapt to that, but I feel like I was getting better throughout the game."
Owen Sound's Jordan Binnington will get the call between the pipes on Saturday against Sweden in Canada's final pre-tournament game as the battle to be the team's starting goalie hits its final stage.