This was unprecedented.
For the first time in his young career, P.K. Subban – who has never met a camera, microphone or notebook he didn’t like – declined to meet the media after the Canadiens’ wild 5-4 win in Detroit.
There would have been much to discuss.
P.K. was on the ice for seven goals – including all four scored by Detroit.
After a brilliant first period in which he rang up his 41st and 42nd assists of the season on goals by Tomas Plekanec, P.K. suffered a few lapses in concentration over the final 40 minutes of the game.
There was, of course, a huge mitigating factor pointed out by several learned members of the HIO Commentariat: P.K. is paired with Francis Bouillon, who would not be a Top Four – and maybe not a Top Six – defenceman on any other team headed for the playoffs … which your Montreal Canadiens are, after raising their point total to 91 with that wacky win in Detroit.
Subban had an off-night. It happens – and it does not alter the indisputable fact that P,.K. Subban is the most talented defenceman on the Montreal Canadiens.
On this particular night, he and Frankie Boo were overshadowed by Andrei Markov – brilliant, practically flawless – and Alexei Emelin.
That will happen. Let’s hope Markov and his Russian partner, who did not play in that first-round loss to Ottawa last spring, continue their excellence into the postseason.
I’m betting that P.K. broke his vow of silence on the Canadiens’ flight to Florida. It should be a raucous ride because the team, despite nervous moments at the Joe, is on a roll: four wins in a row and seven of their last eight, starting with that crazy comeback against Ottawa at the Bell Centre.
We can wring our hands about defensive errors in a game that should have been done and dusted when the Canadiens made it 3-1 and then 5-3. But there was a lot to like in their game – notably the continued fine play by all four lines.
Michel Therrien finally has some stability among his forward corps. I love the newly-minted fourth line – Lars Eller playing within himself, Ryan White crashing and banging, Michäel Bournival using his speed on the forecheck.
Therrien has the luxury of rolling four lines, which – if the trend continues – will have the Canadiens rested and in rhythm heading into the playoffs.
What’s good for the coach, however, is a challenge for his general manager. Marc Bergevin has some important dossiers to deal with, including:
• Thomas Vanek. A goal and two assists. Six shots on goal and, significantly, three hits – including the one that blasted the not-easily-blastable Niklas Kronwall off the puck, which Vanek fed to David Desharnais for the Canadiens’ third goal.
This guy is a stud. Vanek is 30 years old and will be looking for a contract in the range of $50 million for seven seasons. His wife is from Minnesota, that’s where Vanek played his college hockey, and you have to think the Wild have an inside track on signing him.
But I repeat: This guy is a stud. With Max Pacioretty and DD, vanek is giving the Canadiens the best Number One line they’ve had in a while. And after Buffalo and the Islanders, Vanek is on a team that’s fun to play for.
• Brian Gionta. If he’d sign for two years at a reasonable number, I’d bring the Captain back. Gionta never takes a night off, and his work ethic is an inspiration to young players.
He’s part of a penalty-kill rotation that is one of the Canadiens’ strengths. And Gionta has settled into playing quality third-line minutes with fellow veterans Daniel Brière and Rene Bourque.
The only downside to re-signing Gionta, if it doesn’t break the bank?
It means the Canadiens’ C won’t be sewn on the sweater of the player who deserves it: Tomas Plekanec.
I know they didn’t do it for Saku Koivu. But here’s a radical suggestion to fuel a few Friday tavern arguments:
If Tomas Plekanec plays his whole career in Montreal, his number 14 should be raised to the rafters.
His two goals in Detroit lifted Pleks to the 20-goal plateau for the sixth time in his career. And this has been accomplished with a long list of linemates that ranges from the sublime (Alex Kovalev) to the ridiculous (Travis Moen).
Like Gionta, Plekanec gives the Canadiens 100 per cent every time he steps on the ice. And he steps on it first at every team practice, providing the kids with a shining example of what it means to be a professional hockey player.
I hope Pleks’s current linemates, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, are paying attention. They may not play with Plekanec forever, but the youngsters will be better for the experience.
On to the sunshine state.