Daily Hab-it: A battle of composure
By Arpon Basu
Published Sunday, January 16, 2011 12:09AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:11AM EDT
MONTREAL - It's very rare that the pre-game hype playing up some sort of barbaric revenge scenario ever comes to pass, and it didn't exactly do that in this 3-2 Canadiens win over the Rangers.
But with all the talk in the Rangers room prior to the game about what a dirty play P.K. Subban made when he slew footed Brandon Dubinsky on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, and the obligatory talk of not allowing that to overshadow the need to win the game, one would have thought that neither Subban nor Dubinsky would have anything to do with the outcome.
Instead, they were at the centre of it.
And wouldn't you know it, the hot-headed, cocky rookie on the Montreal blueline came out on top.
This adds yet another chapter to what is becoming an epic tale of Subban's maturation into an impact player for the Canadiens.
First, Dubinsky gives him a shot and appears to send a clear invitation to Subban to settle this dispute like men, assuming, of course, the average man settles all of his disputes with his fists.
Subban declined, but in so doing gave Dubinsky a shot of his own then took a second whack, which is what drew the penalty call.
The Rangers having done nothing on the power play, Dubinsky's pre-game wish that Subban would be in the box for a New York power play goal did not come to pass, largely because the New York power play had the energy of a corpse on this night.
But instead of taking that minor victory and letting things sit, instead of realizing his team had a one-goal lead and that his team had only allowed more than one goal twice in its previous five games, Dubinsky wanted more.
He allowed Subban to remain in his head, and I'm guessing it had something to do with something that was said on the ice, or Dubinsky simply needed to feel some degree of physical retribution.
But a little cross-check from behind on Subban was caught by the officials and Dubsinky was sent off for roughing, giving him a great seat in the penalty box for Roman Hamrlik's game-tying goal.
"It wasn't much of a penalty, but it's a penalty," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "He does a great job of sucking Subban in to draw him into a penalty. But then he loses his composure there, and that hurt us. They score a power play goal, the building gets going, and that was a big momentum swing."
It was THE momentum swing, one that saw the Canadiens bombard Henrik Lundqvist with rubber as the power play looked unstoppable. After Michael Sauer was sent off for tripping, Dubinsky once again had a great vantage point to watch Subban's great slap pass go right by him and through the box to Tomas Plekanec at the side of the net for a goal that made it 2-1 Canadiens.
Point, Game, Set and Match Subban.
While everyone in a Rangers uniform wanted badly for Subban to pay for his transgression last Tuesday night, Subban was the one celebrating at the end of the evening, giving Carey Price a much-deserved triple low five after the Canadiens All-Star made 20 saves in the third after facing only 12 shots over the first 40 minutes.
"He's got to stay in control," Tortorella said of Dubinsky. "It's about the team, it's about winning the hockey game. It will be a good lesson for him, he'll straighten that out. He's an intense guy, he's been a huge part of this hockey club, it's something that he has to learn from and he will."
But what is remarkable is how quickly Subban has learned to cope with a situation where he is a target, likely because he's been one his whole hockey-playing life.
He was insisting prior to the game that he's not an agitator, that he simply plays the game hard and perhaps people feel that way about him because they find him difficult to play against.
It came off as somewhat cocky, perhaps even arrogant.
But watching how composed and effective he was in this game, it might also be true.