Tuukka Rask is hurting. Anton Khudobin, who woke up Monday feeling fine, is also injured. Every hockey season has its challenges, and only five games into 2016-17, the Bruins have a doozy.
By the time the Bruins finished their morning workout in Brighton, rookie Malcom Subban was the lone goalie standing, and he could be in net Tuesday night at the Garden to face the Wild for his second career start.
All in all, the “A” plan is on hold, the “B” plan is challenged, and the “C” plan (“Crisis?!”) is somewhere between “day to day’’ and batten down the hatches.
“We are in a situation here, we’ll see what happens,’’ said coach Claude Julien, unable or unwilling to share much about his goalie woes. “If [Subban] is going in goal, he’ll go in goal, as simple as that.’’
Subban, 22, is in his fourth pro season with the Bruins and has only one game of NHL experience, a start in St Louis two seasons ago in which he looked overmatched, giving up three goals in 31 minutes before Julien yanked him.
Subban was summoned from AHL Providence in the morning when the Bruins realized that Rask, their franchise tender, needed at least another day (perhaps more?) to recover from whatever ails him (a suspected hamstring pull). Rask hasn’t played or practiced since Thursday’s 2-1 win over New Jersey, a game in which he twice labored to get back on his feet following routine plays in his crease.
Khudobin, among the first players on the ice Monday, left the workout after about only five minutes, appearing to sustain a hand/wrist/lower arm injury. In his stead, the Bruins spent the next 45 minutes or so shooting at Subban in one of the nets while the opposite cage was masked over with a blue covering, one with six holes in it for shooters to take aim.
Neither Rask nor Khudobin was available to the media after the workout. Julien said he did not have a report from the medical staff on Khudobin and reiterated that Rask remains day to day. The coach noted Saturday morning, after Rask was unable to practice Friday, that the goalie would be shut off for a bit, and would need another day’s rest, at least.
Julien’s update on Rask after Monday’s workout: day to day.
Tuesday portends to be Rask’s fifth day off skates. Once back in gear, he’ll probably need at least a couple of practices to sharpen his game, which means day to day is on the verge of turning into a week or more.
Subban, the most agile, athletic goalie in the organization, has struggled in the early going this season with Providence. Through weekend play, his record stood at 0-3-1, with a bloated 4.50 goals-against mark and a lackluster .856 save percentage. He said he doesn’t feel he’s played poorly, but rather that the entire team has struggled while searching for its chemistry.
On Saturday, the Bruins summoned Subban’s Providence partner, Zane McIntyre, to back up Khudobin against the Canadiens, then promptly returned him to the minors on Sunday — not knowing, of course, that Khudobin would be shelved less than 24 hours later.
If Khudobin can’t at least back up Tuesday, it’s possible that McIntyre will be headed back up Route 95. After the Bruins face the Wild on home ice Tuesday, they’ll be at Madison Square Garden the next night to face the Rangers.
“If I get the call, I’ll be ready to go,’’ Subban said. “It’s how it goes.’’
Subban, the younger brother of P.K. Subban, now the headline defenseman in Nashville, is a very well-conditioned, committed worker. His warm-ups in net are mesmerizing, with his uncanny ability to flash his pads and zip across the crease, his moves harder to follow than a master chef flashing knives at a Japanese steak house.
After his 2015-16 season abruptly came to an end in February because of a throat injury, he came to camp healed and eager to make a bid for a varsity job. But with Khudobin signed in the offseason as a free agent, it soon was clear that Subban would head to the minors for a fourth season, and perhaps remain in the AHL for the duration.
Unless things changed. And now they have, dramatically.
“You’re always waiting for it, always anxious,’’ Subban said. “And I’m here now. Just got to make the most of it.’’
The mental game is often the hardest element for young goalies to master. Subban doesn’t need any help with his athleticism, but technique and consistency, often an apprentice’s bugaboo, remain his challenges.
On top of all of it, he may be guilty of sometimes putting too much pressure on himself.
“Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t like to let in goals,’’ he said. “No matter if it’s a breakdown or what, it’s my job. If there were no breakdowns, you wouldn’t need a goaltender, right?
“It’s my job, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to make every save. I want to get a shutout every game.’’