Expectations for the Nashville Predators are at an all-time high entering the 2016-17 season, especially after the addition of P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens over the summer.
On Saturday night hockey fans in Nashville had a chance to take their first in-person look at Subban in a Predators uniform and he did not waste anytime in showing the potential he brings to the lineup.
Subban assisted on Mike Fisher‘s first period goal and then added a power play goal of his own in the second period.
It came on a night where Subban was admittedly rusty after not appearing in an actual NHL game since March 10 after leaving a late-season Canadiens game on a stretcher. He then missed the first few days of training camp this year dealing with an upper body injury.
“Just a lot of rust. There were a couple moments where the game was a little faster for me,” said Subban after Saturday’s game. “It’s been almost six months since I’ve been in a game, so it’s a long time. I set myself back a little in training camp missing the first couple of days but just tried to work as hard as I could to be in the best shape coming in and just tried to keep my game simple today.”
With Subban in the mix the Predators’ defense is one of the best groups in the league. He joins a blue line that already has Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. Subban spent Saturday night playing next to Ekholm, and seemed to enjoy the experience calling a Ekholm “a stud.”
“He’s a stud,” said Subban. “You don’t usually throw that around much with defensemen, but he played exceptional tonight.”
Subban then referenced a play Ekholm made late in the game in front of the net to help secure Nashville’s win.
“He makes big plays like that every shift. I look forward to playing with him.”
The Subban-Ekholm pairing is an interesting one because Ekholm is probably more of a defensive player that also has the ability to make plays with the puck. A lot of times teams try to take defenders like Subban — players that are more aggressive and take some risks — and try to pair them with a “stay-at-home” defender to balance out the styles.
A lot of times it ends up doing more to hold the more talented player back because his partner can’t keep up with him. But in Ekholm’s case he not only provides some stability in his own zone, but he also has the ability to keep up with Subban and not limit what he can do with the puck.
With this defense Nashville should be one of the top preseason contenders in the Western Conference.