P.K. Subban’s up-and-down rookie season is hitting a high point at a crucial time.
With defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges both sidelined for the season with knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens have required increased contributions across the blueline board and Subban is just one guy who has stepped up.
The 21-year-old has been a polarizing figure all year, driving opponents – and, you get the feeling, sometimes his coach Jacques Martin – mad with his motoring mouth and edgy play, while also garnering praise for his competitiveness and skill.
One thing seems clear; even though the coaching staff has sat Subban down for a few games, there’s no doubt the kid can play and his teammates all attest to his work ethic and desire to win.
Subban’s last scratch came on Boxing Day, when the Canadiens were visiting the New York Islanders. That game coincided with Gorge’s final contest of the season, before it was determined his knee had to be surgically repaired. In 13 contests since his team lost another key rearguard, Subban has three goals and eight points and a plus-1 rating. Paired with veteran Hal Gill, Subban kills penalties and shows off his creativity and hard shot on the power play.
His biggest challenge remains trying to corral the notion that he can win the game every time the puck touches his stick. The best defensemen earn their money by doing very unglamorous things, like never putting the puck in danger or angling players to a point on the ice where they can’t do any damage. Defense is a nuanced position and often times the less you notice a blueliner, the more good things he’s doing.
Subban’s go-for-it mentality serves him extremely well in many cases and he’s certainly adept at lugging the puck up ice and creating chances. He’s also increasingly effective battling for the puck in his own zone, another facet of the game where his edginess and competitive fire serves him well.
There’s still a lot of room for growth in Subban’s approach in terms of simplifying things and making good, quick decisions with the puck. But the youngster is giving the Habs a lot of quality minutes right now and his advancements as a player couldn’t have come at a better time.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.