Ever since the earth-shaking trade that brought P.K. Subban to the South, there's been a good bit of buzz around town about whom will be his defensive partner. According to Head Coach Peter Laviolette, Nashville's newest rearguard will hit the ice with Roman Josi on the left side. I watched the two play together as a pair for the first time in Tampa Bay to close out the preseason schedule. Below is a description of what I saw.
They play a nearly identical brand of hockey. Subban also likes to carry it. In the second half of the second frame, he wound it up from behind his own net, juked two guys through neutral ice, navigated as deep as the offensive hash marks and then laid it back to Craig Smith who found the back of the net for the second time that night to break a 1-1 tie. Fun to watch to say the least. My only regret was not having a telestrator in front of me at the time so I could show and tell you all about it. Dynamic stuff!
Josi will get more opportunities to shoot this year. Subban has a talent and a temperament for drawing the opposition to himself, getting them to commit and then passing off to someone in a better spot. I saw this repeatedly in Florida. He and Josi were on the ice together in a shift later in the game where they ended up on opposite sides of the ice in the Tampa Bay zone. Again, Subban drew two defenders to him and laid it over to his defensive partner. Josi had enough time and space to march it down to the women's tees and let fly. Josi almost seemed to double-clutch as he caught the pass, marveling at all the uncontested real estate in front of him.
Similarly, the Predators were on a power play during the first frame. Subban was closed off by a Lightning penalty killer in the top left corner of the offensive zone. While under pressure, he wheeled just inside the offensive blue line and then made a strong backhand pass the width of the ice to Ryan Ellis's wheelhouse. Again, I looked to my right and left in the press box hoping to have a conversation with someone along the lines of: "Did you see that?!"
All this in a game that didn't count for much when these two were taking the ice together for the first time as a duo.
Bottom line, there's a lot to like in a tandem this talented. And just wait until they've spent a half season together.