The star defenceman will skate with his Canadiens teammates, then board a charter to Boston for Wednesday’s seventh game of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins.
Or, he will empty his locker and meet the media presumably for the final time this season on the unceremoniously named “garbage-bag day,” the Habs’ 10-game playoff run having hit the wall Monday on Bell Centre ice.
“I’ve spoken about the Bruins and how resilient they are, but we’re a resilient team as well,” Subban said Saturday following the Canadiens’ 4-2 TD Garden loss in Game 5.
“We know we have to be even better than we have all series. And the fun thing is, the good thing is, I know that we can be better. It’s not like we’ve played our best hockey yet, I still think we have more to give. I still think we’re going to give a little bit more and we’ll be there.”
Subban might be right; the Canadiens might still have more in the tank. But this is an absolute: so do the Bruins, who have been improving as this series has worn on and who seem to be hitting stride with a stellar depth that now is giving the Habs fits.
The Bruins struck first Saturday at even strength, then scored twice in a 32-second middle-frame span with a man-advantage — elite penalty-killer Tomas Plekanec unfortunately the player in the box for Montreal.
“You have to give them credit. They came out ready to play and they executed,” Subban said of the Bruins. “Most importantly, they capitalized on their scoring chances.
“We had a couple of power plays earlier in the game (three in the first period) and we have to bury those. I strongly believe that if were able to have gotten a goal on one of those first power-plays, it could have been the difference in the game.”
Hindsight and hypotheticals don’t save your Canadian bacon, of course, so we’ll never know whether a power-play goal would have swung the tide.
Or whether Daniel Brière, a healthy scratch for Game 5 after having been signed last summer largely for his fine playoff pedigree, might have made a difference on those extra-man opportunities, even in second-flight duty.
Therrien skated almost impatiently around a Sunday question about the Prust-Brière switch, focusing his reply on his upbeat team preparing for Monday’s Game 6 with the Canadiens’ season hanging in the balance.
On Saturday, Subban wore a what-the-heck? expression when asked about his team’s odds of success on Monday. He managed something polite to the effect that he always likes his team’s odds.
And to a query about Saturday’s lost opportunity?
“(Boston) had opportunities to win as well,” he replied. “It was their opportunity to win at home and they seized it. We didn’t. There’s no time to dwell on anything. We have to play our best game going back home.
“We’ve got it in here,” Subban said of the dressing room. “We have enough here, we just have to bring it. Listen, I still think we’re in a good spot. We’re going back home. You know it’s going to be loud, it’s going to be full of energy and we’re going to be ready to play, that’s for sure.
“This one stings a little bit. We had an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series and we didn’t. You’ve got to give them credit. By the same token, my experiences in the playoffs, when we’ve had success facing elimination, it’s fun hockey. You know we’re going to bring our A-game, that’s for sure.”
Subban’s Saturday ended with a game-high 27:42 ice time, six shots on goal, another six blocked, four hits, two defensive blocks and his fourth goal and team-high 12th point of the post-season.
His goal came on a power-play laser with 2:29 left to play, wanting the puck so badly that he wasn’t merely banging his stick on the ice for it, he was jumping up and down for Max Pacioretty’s pass.
And he made a point of lavishly praising the Game 5 work of Pacioretty, whose assist was just his fourth point through nine playoff games.
With the Canadiens on the ropes, reporters kept casting Subban the bait: Is this series getting chippier by the minute? he was asked. Are referees losing control of it?
He didn’t take a nibble.
The officiating, he said, has been a non-issue, an opinion not subscribed to by many. A total of six penalty minutes were called in Game 4 in Montreal, many infractions on both sides ignored during a 1-0 overtime win for the Bruins. On Saturday: 22 minutes.
“The refs have been (making) calls when they need to and not calling them when they don’t need to,” Subban said. “As far as I’m concerned, the refereeing has been great all series. There haven’t been any issues.
“Obviously, we’d like to take no penalties and get all power plays,” he said, grinning. “But that’s not the way the game works.”
As for the frayed edges of these Canadiens-Bruins games, growing testier if not yet at blood-boil pitch:
“It’s playoff hockey,” Subban said. “You just want to win. It doesn’t matter how chippy the game is.
“I think it’s been good hockey all series. I don’t think it’s been dirty. It’s been good hockey, entertaining, fun, hard, grinding, and that’s what you want to see.
“If I’m watching hockey, that’s what I want to see: good hockey, clean hockey. That’s what it was today and what it’s been the whole series.”
Two more games, rather just one, would suit at least one side of this jousting match.
And you know there’s nothing that Subban would enjoy more on his quarter-century birthday Tuesday than to blow out his candles in Boston.
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