NASHVILLE -- Above the door to the Nashville Predators locker room, in all caps, is the word "DOGHOUSE." On the door is a drawing of a blue bulldog with a bone clenched in his teeth. On the bone are the words "SPEED" and "ATTITUDE." On the dog tag is the name "Stanley."
"It's kind of the theme of the year," Predators captain Mike Fisher said. "We want to be a team that works and is like a dog on a bone."
After the Predators opened their season with a 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, Fisher recognized the top dog of the game by giving him a heavy chain to wear around his neck.
His choice? P.K. Subban.
You could say Subban has gone from one doghouse to another, having been traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Predators for Shea Weber on June 29, only here they throw him a bone.
Subban made a statement when he arrived at Bridgestone Arena in a blue suit coat and gold slacks. He made an impact when he scored the Predators' first goal with a slap shot on the power play. He made an impression when he did a little lasso before his trademark chest-thump, down-on-one-knee, bow-and-arrow celebration. He made his presence felt when he mixed it up with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, taking two penalties in the process.
And when it was over, he made a speech to his teammates.
"It's a special group," Subban said. "I just look forward to looking to be able to put all the [stuff] that's happening in the media off the ice around us just away, because we've got a good group of guys. I think if we're focused and the focus is on our team and not just on [stuff] off the ice, I think we're going to have a lot of success. So that's part of what I said in my speech after the game. Let's just focus on playing hockey and keep moving forward."
Subban is right. The Predators do have a good group of guys. If they focus, they are going to have a lot of success. They are Stanley Cup contenders. But it's going to be hard not to focus on Subban because Subban makes it so hard not to focus on him, just because of who he is as a person and a player.
For months, the media has discussed and speculated about the trade, and some media -- some national, some from Montreal -- showed up specifically to see Subban on Friday. Subban knew it, and he did not disappoint.
The Predators held their annual season-opening event where the players arrive at the arena and walk down a gold carpet in front of a line of fans. All of the players wore a suit. But only Subban, as only Subban can, wore a blue coat and gold pants. His tailor in Montreal, one guy who always cut him some slacks, made them for the special occasion.
"Did you like that?" Subban responded playfully when asked about his outfit. "That's clean, isn't it? I try to keep it tight every now and then, you know? Put a little something on. Yeah, Nashville colors. It's not bleu, blanc et rouge. It's the bleu, blanc et … gold? I guess that's …"
"Or," a Montreal reporter said, giving him the French word for gold.
"Or," Subban said. "Or. OK. Bleu, blanc, or."
Video: CHI@NSH: Subban's power-play blast ties game at 1
Playing his first regular-season game since March 10, when he went off on a stretcher with a neck injury at Bell Centre, Subban scored 7:46 into the first period. He took a pass inside the blue line on the power play, found a lane and blasted the puck past goaltender Corey Crawford. Subban turned, did the lasso, beat his chest, dropped to a knee and pulled back so hard on his bow he kicked a leg high into the air on the follow through.
"I get fired up every now and then," Subban said. "Just tried to express my emotions."
The rink roared. The new guy, billed as the brightest star in Predators history, already was living up to the hype.
Subban also zigzagged through the Blackhawks on one zone entry and shaked-and-baked past a Blackhawks player on another. He also laid his stick on the ice to break up a 2-on-1. He also tangled with Toews around the net multiple times. He also took a roughing penalty for knocking down Kane, who took an embellishment penalty, and an interference penalty for messing with Hossa.
The penalties came late in the third period when the Predators were protecting a one-goal lead. But Subban said he was being hard to play against, coach Peter Laviolette praised his passion, and Fisher gave him the chain. This is the honeymoon period, and we'll see how things go. But what you see depends on how you look at it.
Video: Johansen, Josi and Subban talk about their 3-2 win
Above the bulldog on the door to the locker room, in all caps, is the word "BELIEVE." Below the dog are the phrases "in a dream," "in the process" and "in each other." In another spot in the room, in all caps, are the words "WE ARE WHAT WE BELIEVE WE ARE."
What do you believe Subban is?
More importantly, what do the Predators believe he is?
"He's happy to be here," Fisher said. 'We're happy to have him part of our group. He's fitting in real, real well."