Malcolm Subban is ready to be the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks against the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers if Corey Crawford is unable to.
“It could obviously end up being the opportunity of a lifetime,” Subban said Wednesday. “For me, it’s just taking it day by day and continuing to work hard and make sure I’m ready if I get an opportunity.”
Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago in 2013 and 2015, was ruled “unfit to play” by the Blackhawks on Monday. The 35-year-old hasn’t participated during the first three days of training camp, and didn’t take part in Chicago’s Phase 2 voluntary workouts. He was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average, and among goalies to play at least 40 games this season, he was tied for fifth in the NHL with a .917 save percentage.
The Blackhawks have four goalies in camp with Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins. Coach Jeremy Colliton has rotated each of the top three during practices with the first group.
“We have a situation now where we’ve talked about it being open competition for a spot, whether that’s the starting position or the backup when we start come playoff time,” Colliton said. “The work ethic from all of those guys has been good and that makes us feel good about the preparation they’re doing to take hold of that opportunity.”
Subban has the most NHL experience among the trio; he’s 30-23-7 with a 2.97 GAA and .899 save percentage in 66 games (60 starts) with the Bruins, Golden Knights and Blackhawks. He was 9-7-3 with a 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage this season with Vegas before he was acquired in exchange for Robin Lehner on Feb. 24. Subban did not face a shot in 70 seconds of relief for Chicago on March 3.
Delia is 7-5-3 with a 3.65 GAA and .906 save percentage in 18 NHL games (16 starts), all with the Blackhawks, but did not play in the NHL this season. Lankinen and Tomkins have both never played in the NHL.
Subban was the first goalie in Chicago for voluntary workouts at Fifth Third Arena. He believes the extra time on ice with players and goaltending coach Jimmy Waite will benefit him.
“For me, especially being an explosive athlete, my endurance is what usually goes first, so I try to stay on top of my endurance,” Subban said. “We were skating for three or four weeks and I thought I was back on all the small things. Then I got on the ice with Jimmy for the first time and I realized I still had a lot of stuff to work on. But getting out there and trying to correct those little bad habits that form and just getting back into game shape every skate will help.”