The unrepentant glee generated when Shawn Thornton fired the Thorty Squirty Saturday night throughout Boston was matched by a growing respect, appreciation and professional athletic affection many across Bruins environs are feeling toward P.K. Subban.
Subban has been the most hated and coveted visiting player at T.D. Garden during this series. He will feel nothing but adoration from the home crowd before and during Game 6 Monday night in Montreal. Both those emotions [hate and envy] will be more intense than ever in Boston if this series returns there for a Game 7 Wednesday.
This series between the Bruins and Canadiens began with Subban scoring a double-overtime goal in Game 1 at Boston. By now, we all know what did and didn't happen afterward on certain social media sites and elsewhere. Tens of racist Tweets, some posted in 2013 and others from actual Bruins' fans, filled the digital sphere. Far more important and relevant, that victory gave Les Habitants home-ice advantage in the series for a week. The Bruins were able to reclaim it that essential home-ice edge Thursday night in Montreal.
Subban's reaction to those social media blurts following Game 1 was a post-game hockey highpoint in 2014.
"First things first, the Boston Bruins are an Original Six franchise, they have been around a long time, they are respected," he said. "It's completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization of the fan base. They have passionate fans here, a great fan base and since I've been in the league, it's been awesome."
"I've come to Boston many times, my family has come here and it's been great. What people may say on Twitter or social media is not a reflection by any means of the league or the Boston Bruins."
Subban took it beyond the miniscule world of social media and related the whole mess to the real world so many of us try to maintain a foothold in most of the time.
"You know what the funny thing is, is that we get stronger as a league," he said. "You see how people come together and it's great. It's not just about me. The NHL has tons of players from different backgrounds, from different places around the world and that's what makes this league so special and that's what makes sports so special, it brings everybody together."
Subban's words were surpassed in tact, impact and linguistic power only by T.J. Oshie's description of heroism after his goal beat the
Russians, er Emerging Soviets. "The American heroes are wearing camo. That's not me," he said in Sochi.
Subban's ability to always say just the right thing at the right time after each one of these games compliments his ability, almost always, to do just the right thing on the ice. He ducked Thornton when the Bruins defenseman was making a run on him in Game 2. The low move left Thornton injured, at least it appeared that way. Subban later apologized.
Subban scored again Saturday when it came time to defuse any potential controversy or lingering animosity following his visor wash. He had been doused by Thornton and loudly complained to the officials. Thornton laughed it off. Subban calmly, almost as if he was on cue from the Big Book of Sports Cliches, deflected any questions designed to agitate him. His postgame Zen, at least when the cameras were burning in his face, allowed the Thorty Squirty to become a footnote in this series and nothing more than a $2,820.52 hole in an apologetic Thornton's pocket.
"I was hit [in] my visor twice with water," Subban said. "Listen, I don't think you guys need to make a big deal out of it. It's one of those irritating things, when you're down 4-2. Listen, they beat us. That's not the reason why we lost today. It's just one of those things; [it] frustrates you even more."
Or, as Henry Hill told us as a teen: "Every once and a while I'd have to take a beating. But by then, I didn't care. The way I saw it, everybody takes a beating sometime."
The fact that Subban did not stoke the ire of his Montreal teammates or partisans increased his stature among many in Boston, as well. The panic posted by some following Thornton's face-wash is reminiscent of the "Curse of the Dempstino." The Red Sox were doomed after Ryan Dempster took four pitches to plunk Alex Rodriguez last August in a game the Red Sox would eventually lose, thanks to a home run from A-Rod. We were told across print, digital and broadcast platforms that the Yankees would be so inspired from that game that they would topple the Red Sox. The much-feared Yankees surge never materialized in 2013. The third-place Yankees went 5-2 in the seven games before that game and 5-2 in the seven games following.
Subban over-reacted a bit after scoring Montreal's second goal Saturday. It was a tremendous amount of jubilation following a score that cut his team's deficit to two goals. But that type of enthusiasm is also required of anyone who wears a pro sports uniform in Boston or Foxborough. J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford, among others, found out what a lack of demonstrable enthusiasm can do for an athlete's reputation across New England.
Subban got excited in the moment. Who among us wouldn't? One might say he was being "scrappy," especially when he complained to the officials about getting sprayed. Any paying customer would expect nothing less from the likes of Dustin Pedroia or Brad Marchand.
Speaking of Marchand and Subban, there were plenty of "diving" memes floating around the interwebs. Among the ones noticed here:
Very funny stuff, especially for fans from New York and Pittsburgh.
Subban's presence on the the ice is a far more sober and serious concern for the Bruins, even though they hold a firm 3-2 lead in the series. Saturday, Subban logged 27:42 of ice time, by far the most on either team. Subban took six shots, absorbed four hits and blocked two shots, in addition to scoring a goal.
Yes, "stats are for losers," according to the Book Of Hoodie, Chapter 4, Verse 1. But Subban gives the Canadiens a constant threat of offense while playing defense. He succeeded using the two-way style of offensive defensive play originally mastered in the NHL by Robert G. Orr starting in 1966.
Subban is by far Montreal's quickest and most powerful skater. His six-second tsunami rush from the penalty box to the net in Game 3 gave Montreal a 2-0 lead and flattened Boston's hopes in that contest. His goal on Saturday came off a missile of a slap shot that Tuukka Rask didn't see until it was past his glove and in the back of the net.
Subban, 24, has already staked a claim to "one of the best defenseman in the NHL" status. He won the Norris Trophy in 2013 but is not a finalist this year. He will be a restricted free agent after this season, since the Canadiens failed to lock him into a long-term deal two years ago. With the Canadiens on the verge of extinction and the Bruins looking to find a complement/eventual replacement for 37-year-old Zdeno Chara [who is a Norris finalist this year] as their main man on defense, Subban's contract situation might be relevant to Bruins fans and Boston's front office. Dougie Hamilton has evolved this series. But he's still no Subban. The word from Montreal is that Subban will require at least $8 million annually to stay in Quebec.
That's a cap number the Bruins could manage given that Boston is projected to be $7.5 million below it next season. Sure, there would be an unsigned Andrej Meszaros and a draft pick lost, but those would worthy sacrifices to make if the end result was seeing Subban in wearing the spoked "B."
The acquisition of Subban, even a year down the line if he opts for arbitration this year, would be a welcomed one for hockey philes throughout Bruins Nation. Don't let all those boos sway you otherwise. No one boos players from the visiting team who cannot perform. When it comes to players from out of town, only the big names and stars hear loudest boos, sustained jeers and creative profanity.
Subban's brother Malcolm is a goalie in the Bruins' organization. Montreal would not allow Subban to leave without a serious fight, and would seemingly match any offer he got from Boston. Then again, not many people outside New England figured Jacoby Ellsbury would end up on the Yankees without so much as a serious counteroffer from Boston.
At least for one more game, Subban presents the most challenging barrier between the Bruins and the next round of the playoffs. But once he's no longer part of this postseason equation, it will be OK to start daydreaming of him in Bruins' black and gold someday.
Even if it doesn't happen.
The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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