P.K. Subban

Under Pressure: P.K. Subban

16 Comments

P.K. Subban has always been a lightning rod for criticism because he doesn’t just play the game, he does it with flare; Subban isn’t afraid to do a little talking on the ice adding an eccentric celebration following a goal or a win to add salt to the wound.

As childhood on-ice nemesis, and current Maple Leaf Nazem Kadri once told me, “That’s what drives people crazy: he’s a good player and he runs his mouth a little. When good players are chirping and running their mouth, it just makes the other team want to kill him that much more.

“Then next thing you know, he’s putting one in the back of your net, which makes you even more angry.”

In Montreal, it’s hard to say Subban could be under any more pressure that was until he inked his new mammoth eight-year, $72 million contract earlier this month.

“I’ll tell you something, it’s nothing I haven’t heard in my career before,” Subban joked last week of criticism heard during the arbitration process.

Subban added, that he’s used to the added attention he garners, “I understand when it’s me, it’s a little more magnified, that’s fine.”

Now everyone’s coming out of the woodwork to offer their two cents including former Hab, Alexei Kovalev, who last week paid Subban a back-handed compliment comparing Subban to Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, before adding that he didn’t understand why Subban was making so much money.

The criticism will likely follow Subban for the duration of his contract and beyond, especially if he plays more like he did in 2013-14 than he did in 2012-13 when he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

This past season Subban had just 15 more points than he did in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but what’s more glaring is that as one of the team’s top defenseman, he carried a minus rating.

Now how could one go about adding more pressure to the 25-year-old’s shoulders? Is that even possible?

Well with the departure of captain Brian Gionta along with fellow veterans Daniel Briere and Josh Georges, the Canadiens now need to appoint a new captain.

Why not the highest paid guy on the team?

“I think the interesting thing about our team is that we have a lot of guys who are leaders, and guys that are growing into leaders,” Subban said attempting to deflect attention. “At the end of the day that’s management’s decision, they’ll make the decision as to who they feel fits the best mold as a captain.”

Playing under pressure is what Subban’s done ever since he burst on to the scene in Montreal, but it’s how he performs under that pressure going forward that Canadiens fans care about.

“I think playing in Montreal, not just me, but also my teammates, we understand the magnitude of wearing the ‘C-H ‘and playing for the Montreal Canadiens,” said Subban. “But that’s exciting, that’s the exciting thing about playing in Montreal is, to me anyway, being under the spotlight and excelling.

“This is a city that craves for success, craves for a championship and that motivates you. Its just added motivation.”

Well P.K. sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, lets hope for the sake of Habs’ fans, he can back it up on the ice.

Related: Markov represents Montreal’s other pricey extension

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty
4 Comments

If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Getty
4 Comments

Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.