Regardless of how the rest of the spring plays out for the Montreal Canadiens, a few lessons will be gleaned from this unlikely voyage into the second round of the NHL playoffs.
For the sake of not bringing sand to the beach, we’ll stray from the usual storyline of Jaroslav Halak and just focus on the fact the Habs have shown far more grit, heart and determination than anybody thought they had hanging around their collective bodies.
Not only has every member of the team shown a willingness to enter the physical fray by blocking shots and banging bodies, they’ve also demonstrated great mental resiliency, refusing to give up in the face of extremely long odds.
Another element of this playoff run that is sure to be talked about well into the summer is the emergence of P.K. Subban.
The smooth-skating blueliner joined the Canadiens for Game 6 of their first round series with the Washington Capitals and has been a staple on the back end since, especially with both Jaroslav Spacek and Andrei Markov out of the lineup.
Subban, who turns 21 next week, had a terrific year developing in the American League with the Hamilton Bulldogs and hasn’t missed a beat since being called up to Montreal, notching a goal and three points in four high-pressure playoff contests.
The youngster has certainly been tossed directly in the fire, but part of the reason he’s such a highly regarded prospect is due to his mental makeup. Subban carries himself with an outward confidence that falls just short of unwarranted swagger. He clearly believes in himself and his skills, but also gives you the sense he’s willing to work hard for everything he hopes to achieve.
As good as he’s been on a tandem with Roman Hamrlik, don’t expect a seamless transition to big-league hockey. Pushing the play is part of Subban’s genetic composition as a hockey player and learning when to attack and when to take a more guarded approach – thus avoiding costly turnovers – is key to his development.
Mistakes are going to be made and the world shouldn’t be expected of a player so young. Still, when all is said and done this season, Subban will be one of the reasons to get excited about what is yet to come.
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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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