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The next level

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – P.K. Subban’s sophomore year in the NHL has been spent building a foundation that should bring him success for years to come.

Boasting an average ice-time of 26.7 minutes per game, Subban has claimed his place this season as the Canadiens' most used player, making his presence felt as much on the power play as he is on the penalty kill.

P.K. Subban

“If I’m playing 25 or 27 minutes per game then maybe I’m not going to be able to jump in on all the rushes,” admitted the sophomore rearguard of the changes he's made to his game. “When you’re a young player, people are going to be critical of your game no matter what. You make a mistake and suddenly you’re a bad defenseman. Then you play 30 minutes and finish the night with a plus-2 and you’re the best defenseman in the league. It’s all about riding the wave.”

Last year, fans may have come to know the young blue-liner for his flash and offensive talents, but in 2011-12, Subban has transformed his game, adapting to the role of a premier shutdown defenseman.

“I’m really happy to have been able to develop the defensive aspect of my game. I’m doing my best to not really worry about the offensive side of things at this point because I know eventually, that will come on its own. I’m 22 years old and my focus right now is to build a solid foundation,” explained Subban, who has accumulated 26 points in the current campaign to date. “Jacques [Martin] always told me to worry about building foundations right now that will last me for the rest of my career. I obviously don’t want to be just a flash in the pan, and I think I’ve added elements to my game that are going to help me six or seven years down the line.”

After answering the call to play big minutes against top lines on a nightly basis, Subban has learned to take pride in the steady style he’s been developing over the course of the season.

“I’ve been playing against the oppositions’ top lines for a long time now. I don’t know if we always get the credit we deserve for that,” explained Subban. “Whether it’s me or Gorges, I think we deserve credit for always going up against those guys. It’s been maybe only the last two games that other teams’ top lines have scored on us, but for the 15 games before that, it wasn’t the case.”

One person who is giving Subban due credit for his efforts is Canadiens’ head coach Randy Cunneyworth, coming to count on the young defenseman as one of his most reliable players in the second half of the season.

“He’s doing a lot of good things in a lot of areas – the way he’s defending, the way he’s moving the puck, the way he’s moving himself, the way he’s shooting. There’s not a lot of the nonsense there was earlier on,” expressed the Habs’ bench boss. “We talked about this before and it’s all about maturity. The time guys like Hal Gill and Josh Gorges have spent with him helping show him how to be out there on the ice – all of that is sinking in and it’s affecting his play in a very positive way.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for

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