Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

You can’t stay mad at PK Subban and, so far, the Montreal Canadiens can’t be beaten in play-offs

Rob McKenzie chronicles PK Subban's roller-coaster post-season so far and takes note of a Montreal Canadiens seemingly impervious to the lows.
Montreal Canadiens player PK Subban celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators in Montreal's Game 2 win in the NHL play-offs first round on Friday. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press / AP / April 19, 2015
Montreal Canadiens player PK Subban celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators in Montreal's Game 2 win in the NHL play-offs first round on Friday. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press / AP / April 19, 2015

In November, the Montreal sportswriter Michael Farber wrote a profile of PK Subban, star defenceman for the local hockey club, the Montreal Canadiens. The piece ran in Sports Illustrated with the headline: “You Can’t Stay Angry At PK Subban”.

It was never more true than in the first week of the current play-offs.

Here is Subban’s post-season against the Ottawa Senators so far:

Game 1: He delivers a lumberjack-style two-handed slash on Mark Stone that fractures the young Ottawa star’s right wrist and throws in some ligament damage for good measure. Ottawa scores twice during the ensuing five-minute power play. Subban misses the rest of the game while serving his game-misconduct penalty, but Montreal finishes strong to win 4-3. Ottawa fans go ape and demand Subban be suspended; the league demurs. Stone misses a few shifts.

Game 2: Subban is on the ice for every goal of a 3-2 win, including his own 140-kilometre-per-hour one-timer that gives Montreal a 2-1 lead and earns him a big wet kiss on the forehead from his teammate Andrei Markov. Subban is named the game’s first star.

Game 3: Ottawa opens the scoring when Subban takes himself far out of position in order to slam Erik Karlsson against the boards. The Habs trail until late, but Dale Weise bails out the team – and Subban – with a late score and then the overtime winner.

If this alternating pattern holds, Subban ought to play the hero in Wednesday’s Game 4 in Ottawa. A win would give Montreal a series sweep and, next up, a second-round match-up against Tampa Bay or Detroit.

What Subban does in games is always interesting. But in this series, it is something that happened off the ice that most added to Montreal’s lore.

After his Game 1 slash on Stone, Subban was feeling down. Outside the dressing room he crossed paths with a little old lady in her 80s. It was Elise Beliveau, widow of the Canadiens’ legendary player and class act Jean Beliveau.

Elise assured Subban that Game 2 would go better. “I went over to him and he kissed me and I said, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK on Friday. Wait until then. You’ll have a good game’,” reported the Montreal Gazette.

She even wore her autographed Subban jersey to Game 2 – and stood up so Subban would see her.

Subban, who is really just a big kid, was inspired by this grandmotherly show of trust and affection. “I want to be better for her,” he said.

He even flashed some remorse for his slash, saying, “That’s not something that Mr Beliveau would do.”

This deep reserve of history is not something that a youngish franchise like Ottawa can match.

Another area where Ottawa cannot match Montreal: in net. The Senators’ late-season sensation Andrew Hammond was uninspiring in the first two games of the series. In the regular season “The Hamburglar” had a 94.1 save percentage and lost thrice in 24 games; in the play-offs he has a 91.4 save rate and has lost twice in two games. Ottawa benched him in favour of Craig Anderson for Game 3; alas for Ottawans (the ones who are not Montreal fans), the outcome remained the same.

Meanwhile, the Montreal goalie Carey Price, best in the world at his job, sports a 93.9 save rate. That and his 1.88 goals-against average were, through Monday’s matches, the best of any goalie with three starts in this post-season.

You can’t stay angry at PK Subban. You can’t even get angry at Carey Price. With those two in harness, Montreal is off to a hot start. Stronger foes await.


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Updated: April 21, 2015 04:00 AM

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