In talking about Weber, Bergevin said plenty about Subban

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“P.K. is a leader in his own way, but I want to talk to about the player coming here. I want to talk about Shea Weber.”

That was Montreal GM Marc Bergevin in the wake of Wednesday’s blockbuster trade — one that sent Subban to Nashville in exchange for Weber, sending shock waves throughout the hockey world.

Yet no matter how hard he tried, Bergevin was always going to be talking about Subban.

Today’s deal ended what was, and pardon the hyperbole, a fascinating tenure in Montreal. Subban is a polarizing player, uniquely talented and perhaps the league’s most marketable player. He’s gifted enough to join legends like Doug Harvey, Larry Robinson and Chris Chelios as Canadiens that have won the Norris Trophy, yet maddening enough to draw constant critiques from his head coach.

Subban was revered for his philanthropy and charitable work in Montreal, and was constantly visible in the community. Yet there were incessant rumblings of friction with teammates, and a rumored lack of harmony in the dressing room.

So, enter Weber, and the phrases Bergevin used to describe him.

“Tremendous leader” and “proven player.”

“A complete and reliable defenseman.”

He wasn’t done there.

“We always listen to offers from other teams if it’s going to improve our club,” Bergevin continued. “Today we were presented with an unique opportunity to improve our team, and I truly believe we took a step in the right direction.”

Those questioning Montreal for making this deal will counter with a few points. First, there are the age and contract factors. Subban just turned 27 in May, while Weber is 31 in August.

Subban has six years left on his deal, Weber 10.

From a statistical perspective, it’s fair to suggest Weber — with nearly 800 games played on his resume — could be slowing down just a bit. His regular season TOI in Nashville last year was his lowest in five years, and many people’s lasting memory of him in a Preds uniform was the ghastly Game 7 effort against San Jose in Round 2.

“It was tough,” Weber said following the 5-0 loss, in which he finished minus-3 and was on the ice for every San Jose goal. “It was a tough night.”

But if there were concerns about Weber, Bergevin wasn’t indulging them at Wednesday’s presser.

In fact, he talked up how the former Preds captain would boost Montreal’s sagging power play, and continually expressed what a big, prototypical, traditional workhorse Weber is on the blueline.

“You can’t ask for more — he’s a helluva defenseman,” Bergevin explained. “His track record shows for itself. Last year in the playoffs he averaged over 27 minutes a night, so he’s a very useful defenseman.

“He’s a stud.”

This assessment, you could argue, is maybe what Montreal didn’t see in Subban.

There’s very little that’s traditional about his game. He’s a risk-taker, and the term “swashbuclking” has been used to describe his style on more than one occasion. Back in February, Habs head coach Michel Therrien ripped Subban for a “selfish play that cost us the game” — a one-handed move against the Avs that backfired, and ended up in Montreal’s net.

In the aftermath, Therrien stood by his critique, only adding the requisites —  he had no problem with an “enthusiastic” guy like Subban, who was always in “a playful mood.” Subban then responded how Subban always does, by insisting he wasn’t going to change the way he played.

And that, right there, could be why today’s trade was made. The Habs were never going to make P.K. be like Weber, and P.K. was never going to make P.K. be like Weber.

But Bergevin could make the trade, and take the risk that came along with it.

“Today we completed an important transaction that I’m convinced will make the Canadiens a better team,” he said. “[But] it is also one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make as a general manager.”

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

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Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
NBC
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream

*Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]