The Engels Angle: Subban Shines Bright
PK Subban celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks, April 5, 2011 (The CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
By Eric Engels
Published Wednesday, April 6, 2011 7:24AM EDT
MONTREAL - If there's one thing we've known about P.K Subban since the day he entered into the Montreal Canadiens organization, it's that he has a flair for the dramatic.
Fitting that the spotlight should follow him, because it's under those circumstances that he thrives.
He proved it once again, by winning a key battle in overtime, forcing Jonathan Toews to take a penalty he'd ultimately regret.
Subban's lightning-quick one-timer, on the ensuing 4-on-3 powerplay, beat a helpless Corey Crawford.
The goal ensured a 2-1 victory, and in a scene that played out in fairy tale fashion, clinched the Canadiens their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Subban's signature celebration--an epically failed chest bump with Carey Price--encapsulated the charisma that makes him so appealing both on and off the ice.
For all the criticism, and the suggestions that he should bottle it and conform to what Don Cherry thinks a hockey player ought to be, Subban has no problem being himself.
"People are going to always criticize what I do, and everybody gets criticized. For me it's just (about) what the team needs me to do. The more people talk, the better I play. If you want to talk about the celebration--go ahead. I'll just keep playing and do what my team needs me to do."
Drama aside, his development as a player--and more importantly--as a person, gives the Canadiens and their fans a reason to believe they have a superstar on their hands.
And we should be celebrating the fact that he brings an excitement level to the game this team hasn't seen in decades.
There have been comparisons to Chris Chelios, and they really should be solely interpreted in the context of rookie defencemen having a tremendous impact on the team's success.
Comparisons are tough to make, because Subban marches to the beat of his own drum.
His style of play is revolutionary. From a skill-perspective, he's a perfect model for future generations of NHLers.
Considering his age and the fact that this is his first full season in the league, you know he's only going to get better.
He knows it too:
"I'm going to make mistakes. I know I'm not supposed to talk about myself, but I look at tonight, and I took two penalties that could've cost our team. Nobody really talks about that, you know, everybody just talks about the goal to win the game."
The comment shows his maturity. On a night where it would be acceptable to pat himself on the back--a night that he authoritatively stamped the Canadiens ticket to the playoffs--the comment shows his commitment to bettering himself.
He's honest too:
"I haven't shied away from the criticism or making mistakes. I know I'm going to make them. That's why I can turn the page the next day and go out and get better."
Most impressively he's confident.
Nothing's come easy to him, a fact Jacques Martin acknowledged in his post-game comments. Martin pinpointed Josh Gorges' injury as the turning point in Subban's season.
He credited Hal Gill for helping him find the balance necessary to fill Gorges' skates.
Martin's assessment may be true, but Hal Gill's not the only reason Subban's evolved into such a pivotal player, at such a young age.
Gorges' injury wouldn't allow Martin to keep Subban from the spotlight, and those circumstances have enabled him to blossom more than anything. His confidence is a direct result of being thrust into that situation.
Where will his confidence rise to in the playoffs, as his role increases?
One spotlight might not be enough...