Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Musings: P.K Subban is Too Much for Don Cherry?

Happy Monday, Habs Addicts!

Photo Credit: TSN.CA
Well we had quite an interesting week this week.  Three games were played, with Montreal starting the week with a 4-1 loss at home to the New Jersey Devils, followed up by an entertaining 5-4 overtime win in Ottawa and a prime-time, Hockey Night in Canada rivalry match-up against the Maple Leafs that resulted in an entertaining and disappointing 5-3 defeat. As we all know, P.K. Subban celebrated his overtime goal against the Senators by emphatically tugging his jersey and kissing the logo as he left the ice, riling up Senators fans while showing tremendous CH pride to the Habs fans in attendance.  This came back to haunt him on Saturday, as James Van Riemsdyk mocked the move with a jersey tug of his own after scoring the game-winning goal. Don Cherry also voiced his opinion on the matter and thus Jersey-Tug-Gate has been born. That recaps the week in a paragraph, now onto my musings.

- Two of the leagues elder statesmen, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur (both 41 years old), each had stellar performances against the Habs in a 4-1 victory this past Tuesday.  Jagr scored his 14th goal of the season - and 695th of his career, surpassing Mark Messier for 7th most all-time - and also chipped in an assist.  Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of 30 shots and was named 1st star of the game in what may have been his last appearance in Montreal.  The Habs played a flat game and left Carey Price without much support. Price also had an off-night, allowing 4 goals on only 19 shots.  Overall, this game mirrored the performance we saw the previous week against the Philadelphia Flyers.  Sure the Habs outshot the Devils, but that total is deceiving as Brodeur was rarely challenged. This game served as another reminder of what could have been, as its no secret that Jagr has wanted to play in Montreal and has had several opportunities to sign here the past few seasons as a free-agent.  Future Hall-of-Famer, 6'4", 240-lbs, tremendous work ethic and amazing mentor to players like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival? Who wouldn't want that in the lineup?  But no, instead Marc Bergevin decided to spend the same money on Daniel Briere.  For the record, Briere had 0 points and 1 shot on goal in 18:09 minutes of ice time and has 1 assist in his past 5 games.  Fantastic.

- Carey Price called his performance against the Senators one of his best games of the season. Hard to argue when you see the highlights and some of the saves he had in the 5-4 overtime win.  Ottawa dominated the action in this game after the Habs jumped to an early 3-0 advantage.  Price did allow 4 goals on 44 shots, but this game easily could have mimicked the 9-1 shellacking the Anaheim Ducks put on the Vancouver Canucks the night before had Price not stood on his head.  Price had absolutely no help from his defenders and was left to fend for himself on numerous occasions and came up big.  The Habs, to their credit, fought back to tie the game before P.K. Subban notched the game winning goal in overtime.  What happened after that is the widely debated jersey-tugging incident.  Unfortunately Subban's exuberant celebration took some of the limelight away from the performance of Price and also set up a rant from Don Cherry on his Coach's Corner segment this past Saturday. To summarize, here's an excerpt from Coach's Corner:

“I love Subban. I’ve known him since he’s been a kid. I’m the guy that pumped him and pumped him ... I’m the guy that pumped for the Team Canada, the whole deal. This is one of the reasons they did not want him; because of what he did in Ottawa ...  And all he does is pump up the other team. He has to stop that stuff. I thought he’d stop it ... It’s absolutely ridiculous. Don’t give ammunition ... And Subban had better stop that stuff when he goes to Team Canada."   - Don Cherry, Coach's Corner, CBC
Subban showed a lot of emotion, especially after scoring the goal. He fell after shooting and upon seeing the puck in the net, left his stick in the crease as he went tearing to his teammates to celebrate the victory.  Leaving the ice, he took a page out of Alex Galchenyuk's book and emphatically tugged his jersey and gave the logo a kiss, paying homage to the CH and the fans in attendance.  It also served to rile up the Senators and their fans.  And Don Cherry.  Last I checked, Don Cherry has found ways to rile up just everyone in hockey at some point in his career, nevermind the overly flamboyant suits he wears during his broadcasts.  For a guy who draws more attention to himself and his comments on Saturday nights than the game usually does, I think calling out Subban for being an excited kid who gets caught up in the moment is a little bit hypocritical, Grapes.  Does Subban's actions get under the skin of his opponents? Yup. Does it serve to motivate the other team?  Maybe a little. Impact is probably overrated by the media. These are professional athletes, playing an 82-game season. Maybe bulletin-board material would work in a short series or a key game, not so much for a random mid-season matchup.

-  Further adding fuel to the Jersey-Tug-Gate fire, James Van Riemsdyk celebrated his eventual game-winning-goal on Saturday night with a jersey tug of his own, directed at P.K. Subban.  Needless to say, the press was all over this one in the game recap.  Van Riemsdyk claims he only celebrated his goal in this manner after Subban apparently taunted the Leaf's bench after Montreal scored a goal in the first period.  I'm no expert, but I would analyze that the taunting in the first period had less to do with it and the more likely cause was the fact that Subban and Van Riemsdyk played a very chippy and very physical game against one another the entire evening. There were numerous altercations along the boards and words spoken between the two.  Did Subban say something to the Leaf's bench? Probably.  Are comments made all night, every night in hockey games? Absolutely. Should we be concerned with Subban's actions? I say no. Subban surely doesn't care about the issue.  Lets face it, he has personality. He has talent. He has a Norris Trophy. If Bergevin wanted to move him, 29 other GM's will come calling.  Does he need to mature on the ice? Of course he does. He's only 24 years old. The upside is tremendous. Let him play his game.

- Overall, the Leafs and Habs played a spirited affair in the 5-3 Leafs win.  Michel Therrien played a young rookie, Joonas Nattinen over the consistently-under-producing Rene Bourque.  Nattinen saw 1:45 of ice time.  Or half that of George Parros. Parros was on the ice for a goal against in his 3:03. Nathan Beaulieu played 13+ minutes in place of Douglas Murray, and has since remained up with the club.  How much he plays is yet to be determined. Marc Bergevin should be concerned with Therrien's handling of the young players. Against Toronto, Carey Price stood tall while the defensive effort again collapsed around him. Hard to fault him on most of the goals and the fifth goal of the game was an empty-net goal.  

This week saw the defensive effort crumble, as the Devils, Senators and Leafs scored 4, 4 and 5 goals against, respectively.  In the past 10 games, the Habs have allowed 4+ goals seven times. Seven. When your offense is barely producing, you can't be allowing that many goals.  Somehow Montreal has managed to go 4-4-2 in those 10 games, with 2 of those victories also coming in overtime. Therrien came to Montreal as a changed man, so to speak.  New Michel Therrien lasted half a shortened season.  Since the middle of last year, the Habs have played like a .500 hockey team and suffered an embarrassing playoff round loss to the Senators.  Therrien needs to figure out what he has with this hockey club and soon, because another swoon and first-round playoff exit could - and should - cost him his job. Right now, he has the leash he needs to turn it around but with the glaring problems that need to be addressed with his handling of young players, overall game management and consistency, its hard to see him righting the ship anytime soon.

This weeks games include matchups on the road in Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby's Penguins on Wednesday, followed by an original-six battle in Detroit on Friday night. The Habs return home to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. With the defensive showing we saw this past week, going 0-3 and allowing 15 goals against is a very distinct possibility. 

Three (or Four) Questions from my musings:

A) i) Should the Habs have signed Jagr over Daniel Briere this past off-season?
A) ii) Should the Habs attempt to acquire Jaromir Jagr from the Devils at the trade deadline?

B) Does P.K. Subban need to shelve his celebratory style in order to avoid 'motivating' the opponents?

C) Does the defensive performance of the past 10 games reflect a disturbing trend or is it simply a blip on the radar that happens to all teams during a long season?

Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.



A) Yes and Yes - in addition to everything else, there's the chemistry with Pleky ...
B) No; let him be who he is! I sure don't have a problem with his exuberance!
C) Blip... blip ... blip ... :)

@jmacleve: I agree. I was very much unimpressed with the Briere signing and I wanted Jagr instead, especially at the same price point. I wanted Jagr 3 years ago, for that matter. Sure age was a concern, but the intangibles he brings to a locker room is evident.

Clearly my view on Subban was listed above. Let him play, let him develop and let him be him. He's a captain in the making with more experience.

I hope its a blip, but my gut is telling me its not. Too many bad decisions and the right-side Emelin experiment has to end.

Did you hear the one about John Tortorella and his suspension when Calgary Started their game vs his Canucks with their fourth line?? What's Torts gonna do when his Canucks have to face the Canadiens?? We have Four fourth lines.

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