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P.K. Subban of Predators breath of fresh air in Stanley Cup Final

Defenseman ups ante against Penguins with some showmanship

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

NASHVILLE -- Something stinks, and it isn't P.K. Subban's breath. It's folks who can't take a joke, folks who can't appreciate a little showmanship and gamesmanship by a star defenseman on the NHL's biggest stage.

After the Nashville Predators' 5-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, Subban came up behind Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. He bumped him, grabbed his jersey and jawed with him.

Subban did an interview with NBCSN analyst Pierre McGuire. It lasted 1:20. For 1:05, Subban said all the right things. None of that made news. But then he was asked what was said between him and Crosby as the game was ending.

He paused for a full second before answering, as if trying to think of what to say. Just a guess, but he probably didn't want to repeat what was actually said.

"He told me my breath smelled," he said. "But I mean, I don't know, I used some Listerine before the game. So I don't know what he's talking about."

Subban smiled. McGuire laughed.

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Subban on team's performance in win

Others howled. There goes Subban again! Making himself the story! What's he doing, trying to get an endorsement deal with Listerine?

The media asked about it after the game and again Sunday.

"You can't be perfect, you know?" Subban said with another smile. "There's things I've got to work on. I guess making sure my breath smells good on the ice is one of them."

More howling, or at least eye-rolling. There goes the media again! Making something out of nothing! Don't they know it's about hockey, not halitosis?

"Yeah, he made that up," Crosby said Sunday. "I didn't. I didn't say that."

Too bad. It would have been funnier.

"[Subban] has great breath," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "He's always well dressed, always smells good."

 

[RELATED: Subban comes through on guarantee | Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Look, Subban can go too far sometimes. I have criticized him for it. The media can be silly sometimes. I have been guilty of it. I'm sure some will think I'm guilty of it now.

But in this case, it's part of the antics of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or any other big sporting event. Ever listened to the talk at the Super Bowl?

And on a certain level, it's revealing.

Love him or not, Subban doesn't care. He loves the competition and attention.

Asked about facing Crosby, he said: "Love it. Love it. I mean, it's always great playing against the world's best players, and he's the world's best player. It's always fun to play against those guys, and it's a challenge, and it's going to continue to be a challenge not only for myself but for everyone throughout our lineup."

He loves the gamesmanship too.

"The gamesmanship's awesome," he said. "That's what you love, and that's probably what you miss the most when you finish playing are those battles, the game within the game, I guess you could say."

Video: P.K. Subban becomes the media on Media Day

Make no mistake: Subban knows what he's doing. He's a smart guy and maybe the most media-savvy player in the NHL. He played for the Montreal Canadiens in a crazy market for seven seasons and has been the subject of countless stories and columns, both negative and positive.

So when he comes out after a 4-1 loss in Game 2 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday and says the Predators will win Game 3 and cut the Penguins' lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1, he's well aware that the media will run with it. He's ready to double down on it the next day. When he keeps breathing life into this latest story, he's well aware of what will happen next.

It isn't totally self-serving.

Saying the Predators will win keeps people talking about his guarantee instead of, say, goaltender Pekka Rinne's struggles. Continuing to joke about bad breath means Crosby will have to deal with it on a practice day. Is it really going to bother Crosby? Doubtful. Crosby has dealt with people trying to throw him off his game his whole life. But it sure doesn't hurt either.

All of it creates more content for the media and doesn't take anything away from the hardcore news and analysis. If you want that, we've got plenty of it too on NHL.com. Have you clicked on it yet?

I asked Subban if he knew the media would ask Crosby about his breath.

"Are you guys going to ask him that?" he said slyly.

I bet him someone would.

"Well, it will be interesting to see if he says what he said last night," he said with a smile.

Sure enough, someone did.

Then another reporter followed up by asking Crosby if Subban had tried to get under his skin a lot over their careers.

"Yeah, that's part of it," Crosby said. "He likes the attention and things like that. So I mean, if he wants to make stuff up, I mean, there's not much I … What can I do?"

Laugh.

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