MONTREAL – Subban nets his first goal of 2011-12 and pitches in huge minutes on a flawless penalty kill to blank Eric Stall and the ‘Canes.
Considering the amount of injuries plaguing the Canadiens dressing room combined with one of the most inexperienced bluelines in the league as a result, the Habs couldn’t have hoped for a better effort Wednesday night.
“It’s almost like when you know you’re not 100% before a game, a lot of the time, that’s when you play your best hockey,” explained Subban after logging a whopping 24:49 of ice time against the Hurricanes, including 5:18 of solid shorthanded work. “As a team, we knew that we had guys down so the message before the game was that everybody was going to have to give a little bit more, and I thought we really did that today.”
While Subban may indeed be one of the youngest rearguards that laced up for the tilt against Carolina, he was far from one of the least experienced. His 97 regular season NHL games placed him behind only veteran Josh Gorges’ 382 as the Habs’ second-most seasoned defenseman.
“I hate saying ‘young guys’ because I’m obviously one of them, but whenever we collectively as a group made a mistake, I felt like we worked really hard to make up for it,” continued No. 76 who was handed the task of shutting down the ‘Canes’ elite. “Before the game, we talked about the need to go up against the Staal line and if there was a whistle, to try and stay on the ice for the Skinner line. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. But it’s always great to have more work to do and more minutes to play.”
Another Wednesday night highlight for Subban was the goal and assist he picked up in the game’s second period – something the 22-year-old promised has been a secondary focus for him as of late.
“My job is to play defense,” said Subban when asked if he was relieved to finally score his first goal. “I’m not really concentrating on the offensive side of things – I know that will come eventually. Right now more than ever, with all the guys hurt and out of the lineup, I know the coach is expecting a solid defensive game from me, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Of course I was happy to score,” added Subban whose second period marker came not from a booming slap shot from the blueline, but rather from a well-placed wrist shot on Cam Ward. “It’s the NHL, it’s the best league in the world. Whether it’s my first goal or my twentieth of the season, it’s always a reason to celebrate.”
Fans can expect another tough night of work from Subban Thursday in Long Island after head coach Jacques Martin hinted that no healthy bodies should be returning to the lineup.
“There’s obviously still a lot of hockey left to play and the standings are definitely going to change,” added Subban who finished the night with two points and a plus-2 differential. “For us right now, it’s all about one shift at a time, following our game plan and executing and I think we did a good job of those things tonight.”
Justin Fragapane writes for canadiens.com
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