Monday, February 12, 2018

Weekend wrap: PK Subban wins again

The weekend featured 26 games, many with critical playoff implications. But the one that everyone seems to be talking about took place on Saturday night, and featured a first-place team earning a win over an also-ran.

Call it the P.K. Subban effect.

Subban and the Predators were visiting Montreal for the second time since last summer’s blockbuster trade. The day began with a visit to a children’s hospital, and ended with the Predators claiming a 3–2 shootout win. Subban wasn’t much of a factor in the game; he didn’t even play all that well. But that hardly mattered. Saturday’s meeting came just as the GM who traded him away prepares to pull the trigger on his next wave of wheeling and dealing, so this visit took on an extra sense of symbolism.

Subban remains, to put it mildly, a divisive figure in the hockey world these days, both in Montreal and beyond. Many fans love him; many don’t.

And apparently, some of his one-time teammates have mixed views of their own. After the game, Brendan Gallagher couldn’t seem to figure out why he was being asked about Subban.

Well, let’s see if we can crack this mystery. When you take a big run at an opponent and end up injuring yourself instead, you might be asked about that guy. When you score a goal and them make a point of seeking out an opponent on their bench for some extra trash talk, you might be asked about that guy. If both of those things happen in the same game, you’re definitely going to be asked about it, and feigning confusion about why anybody would bring it up isn’t an especially good look.

For his part, Subban got in a relatively mild chirp of his own at Gallagher’s expense. That was no surprise – the two clearly don’t like each other, with a history that dates back to when Subban was still in Montreal. But no doubt, somebody somewhere is already filing that soundbite away as further evidence in the ongoing case against Subban. Even when he’s playing at a Norris Trophy level, he’s always been guilty of the cardinal hockey sin of not minding the spotlight, and occasionally even seeking it out. Never mind that a league full of dull, mumbling players should be desperate for exactly that sort of star – for whatever reason, it rubs some people the wrong way.

If Subban cares, he didn’t show it on Saturday, just like he hasn’t shown it since the trade that sent him to Nashville. Hockey fans love to debate winners and losers in blockbuster trades, and maybe you can argue that it’s still too soon to know whether the Predators or Canadiens truly got the best of this one. But one thing seems clear: P.K. Subban won. He has a bigger spotlight than ever before. More importantly, he’s been to one Stanley Cup final and may be headed for another while the Canadiens crash and burn without him. All the boos, trash talk and moronic tweets that come his way won’t change that.

When you think of it that way, maybe you can understand why the Brendan Gallaghers of the world would rather talk about just about anything else. They don’t have to like Subban, and plenty of people still don’t. But that won’t change the fact that he’s winning and they’re not.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards Stanley Cup–favourite status.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-22-4, +5 true goals differential*): The record is still pedestrian, and they remain outside the top 10 in the overall standings. But they’ve been looking scary for the last month, and sure seem like a team that’s waking up just in time to make a deep run.

4. Vegas Golden Knights (36-15-4, +35): They’re no longer dominating, winning seven of their last 14. But 10 of those came on the road and the schedule served up some tough opponents; during the most challenging section of their season, the Knights bent but didn’t break.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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