NASHVILLE — It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.
The defenceman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.
Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville’s stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The best way to sum up Subban’s approach? C’est la vie.
“I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way,” Subban said. “I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way.”
The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defencemen. Adding Subban’s offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.
The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.
“When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win,” Subban said.
The 28-year-old Subban has done that and more. The former Norris Trophy winner was voted the All-Star captain for the Central Division, and he scored 40 points in 66 games during the regular season.
Paired with Mattias Ekholm this post-season, Subban has helped suffocate some of the NHL’s most potent scorers. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored only one goal against Nashville in a first round sweep that caught the league’s attention that Nashville was for real. Vladimir Tarasenko had three points for St. Louis in the second round, but his two goals came in Game 2 of a six-game loss to the Predators.
In the conference finals, Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf came in with eight goals and 15 points. He never scored a goal against Nashville and managed only four assists.
Next up for Subban? Defending the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins. Game 1 is Monday night in Pittsburgh.
“He and Mattias Ekholm have really formed a chemistry together, and that takes time,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “But they’ve formed a chemistry together that makes them just a real difficult pair to play against.”
General manager David Poile praised Subban with being very coachable and fitting in, which some critics said could never happen. Poile said Subban probably has given up a little bit of his offensive tendencies to play the role Nashville needs him to right now.
“Everybody wants to see what they think they want to see, rushing the puck up the ice or getting a big goal, which he’s certainly got some big goals,” Poile said. “But nobody wants to talk about his defence. It’s probably not as exciting, probably not as sexy. … He is tremendous from a defensive standpoint.”
Only Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (16) and teammate Ryan Ellis (11) have more points this post-season among defencemen than Subban, who is tied with another teammate Roman Josi with 10. Subban is averaging 25 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time and trails team-leader Josi by only four seconds.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said Subban is an easy defenceman to work with, always wanting the puck. He also thinks Subban has adjusted well with the Predators after taking some time to mesh at the beginning of the season.
Canadian media and his fans from Montreal have made trips to Nashville to talk with and see the charming defenceman this season. Subban said his parents have seen Predators’ flags hanging in his hometown of Toronto.
And it turns out Subban was right last summer saying he believed he would have a big opportunity to win the Stanley Cup with Nashville. That confidence solidified once he talked with Poile and Laviolette and how they embraced him as a big key for the Predators.
“But we’re in this position because of everybody,” Subban said. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never been on a team that works as hard for each other as these guys do. And it shows.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press