The Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues have played three games in their series. The Predators are up two games to one on the Blues, with a home game tonight at 9:30 PM EST. They find themselves in this position largely due to the dominance of a new Predator P.K. Subban. Through the first series against the Blackhawks, Subban was relatively quiet. The Predators focused on playing a more defensive game in order to limit opposition chances and take away the Blackhawks firepower. This series, the offense has opened up a bit, and teams are trading chances more. This style of game is right up Subban’s alley. Subban is stealing the spotlight this series, and for good reason.
P.K. Subban Offensive Dominance in Round Two
Of the recent press Subban is getting, not all of it has been positive. Mike Milbury recently caused an uproar among fans and media alike when he called Subban a “clown” during Game 2’s pregame warmup. A link to the video as well as a reaction to it can be found here. Milbury’s whole commentary, in which he suggested that Predators coach Peter Laviolette, “ought to give him a rap on the head,” was a reaction to Subban dancing during pre-game warmup. Dancing is probably a bit much. Bobbing is more like it. So apparently, in Milbury’s mind at least, loosening up before a game makes Subban a clown.
Milbury’s comments are irresponsible and uncalled for. His choice of words is extremely poor, and shows no evidence of forethought. His message reveals a major issue for hockey: that personality and individuality are aspects to repress. No matter the angle, Milbury’s comments are out of line. To be fair, he did explain to the Tennessean that what he meant was that Subban might be a distraction to his teammates at a time when they should be getting focused and getting serious. Maybe, but he still said what he said.
Predators fans know what Milbury obviously does not. Before Game 3 in Nashville on Sunday, fans held signs supporting Subban. Nashville fans, and maybe anyone not named Mike Milbury, recognize that Subban’s behavior is his way of getting focused and staying loose. It is his way of preparing for a game. And it’s nothing new. This is a routine for Subban. If he was a distraction to his teammates, the issue would have already been dealt with by coaching staff. Given his performance this round, focus clearly is not an issue. Subban is dialed in.
In the regular season against the Blues, Subban had two assists in five games. So far in this series, he has one goal and three assists in three games. He has found another gear in the second round, and that is earning him more playing time. In Game 1, Subban was third among Nashville players with 23:16 of ice time. In Game 2, he saw a minute and a half more ice, still ranking third. But after two solid performances, Subban’s ice time jumped to 27:21 in game three, first among Predators. He and his partner Mattias Ekholm saw roughly four more minutes of game play than the team’s usual first pair of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.
Game 1 Performance
In our preview of the series between the Predators and the Blues, we mentioned Subban as one of the best defenseman in the game. That was evident in Game 1 as Subban took over for the Predators. His shot from the left circle on the powerplay was particularly effective. On the Predators first goal, a Subban shot from the left circle was beautifully tipped in by Colin Wilson. The third Predators goal, scored by Filip Forsberg, was on a rebound generated from Subban’s shot from the same area. Subban scored from the other side of the ice and on even strength for this goal, letting lose a laser for the team’s second of the night.
That Subban looks comfortable shooting and handling the puck is great news for the Predators. Against the more stout defense of the Blues, the Predators have relied on more scoring from their defensemen. In the the first round series against the Blackhawks, defensemen scored three of the Predators 13 goals. In the current series, defensemen scored four of nine Predators goals. Subban is a large part of this success, scoring one goal and creating chances with his shot from the point. Although he was held without a point in game two, Subban tallied another assist in game three on a Ryan Ellis goal.
Last year against the Sharks, the Nashville defense at times looked sluggish and lost. Nashville management identified this issue and traded aging captain Shea Weber for the younger, more mobile Subban. At this point, the Predators are winning that trade. They got exactly what the wanted: a player who can keep up with play and quickly transition his team from defense to offense. If Subban maintains this level of play, he and the Predators may be dancing their way to the team’s first Conference Final.
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