Through three games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, P.K. Subban is proving he’s worth every penny of that $9 million price tag.

With the Predators climbing to a 2-1 series lead on Monday (with Pekka Rinne almost entirely responsible for Game 3’s win), Subban has been arguably the team’s best defenseman on the ice so far.

“We have enough guys that can generate offense in here but when we commit to defense, we’re a tough team to play against,” Subban said after Saturday’s overtime win.

Subban has been a big contributor in both offense and defense so far. He’s scored a goal and an assist so far to go along with 10 shots on goal. He’s contributing in puck possession and shot share, leading all Preds’ blueliners with a 60.9 on ice shot attempt percentage. And he leads the team in on ice high danger chances generated at 16, while allowing only 10 at the other end.

Essentially, when P.K. Subban is on the ice, the Dallas Stars can’t do much to stop him at either end of the ice. He’s generating offense, he’s shutting down their forwards, and he’s putting up points. He’s also playing a much more physical game than he did in the regular season.

Yes, it’s only three games, but it’s about time to recognize P.K. Subban’s efforts in this series so far. Especially after the regular season he just had.

An Improved P.K.

It’s no lie that P.K. Subban didn’t have a great regular season. He finished with just 31 points in 63 games for his lowest points per game output since 2012 with Montreal. Not only that, he was inconsistent defensively, making crucial mistakes in his own zone that led to dangerous chances on the Nashville net.

It was a far cry from his Norris Trophy finalist season in 2018, where Subban led the Preds’ blueline with 59 points and was one of the best defensemen in the league.

Subban was the first to point out when he was struggling during the regular season.

“This year has been a tough year so far, but I’m just trying to push it the last couple games and get myself back to where I know I can be and dominate games,” Subban said back in March.

“I’m not too happy with my year. I’d like to be healthier and play better.”

Critics of Subban’s subpar season had many questions. Is he still nursing an injury? Is he distracted with all of his off the ice activities? Or was he just overpaid to begin with?

In truth, it’s quite likely that Subban is still feeling the effects of the injury suffered back in 2016. A neck injury doesn’t go away easily, especially if you are playing professional hockey while trying to rehab. The fact that Subban turned in a Norris caliber season in 2017-18 should be reason enough to say that his neck has healed, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still feel it.

So while Subban’s regular season this year is largely an enigma, so far in the playoffs it’s been a different story. The Predators are just fine with that and it certainly bodes well for the rest of the playoffs.

If Subban can keep his play at this level and other key players like Ryan Johansen, Ryan Ellis, and Kyle Turris can improve theirs? There’s almost no limit to where this team can go.

Desperate Hockey

When asked about the Predators ability to win this series against the Stars, Subban had a rather candid answer.

“No one in the League can beat us when we play desperate hockey,” Subban said after Game 2’s win on Saturday. “I think that in Game 1, they were desperate and they showed that, especially in the second period – maybe not in the first, I thought we came out the right way. Last game, we didn’t play a full 60 minutes. Technically in the playoffs, when you do that, you don’t deserve to win.”

Subban is right. The Predators always play a little better and a little faster, when they are the more desperate team. It’s unfortunate and frustrating, as you’d hope a talented team doesn’t need to feel desperate in order to win games. But that might just be the reality of this team’s makeup right now.

Regardless of how or why the Predators are up 2-1 in the series, they still find themselves in prime position to take a commanding lead in the series in Game 4 on Wednesday.

And though Subban has clearly stepped up his game in the postseason, he knows it won’t be easy to come out on top in this series.

“There are no easy shifts out there, no easy games and no easy plays.”

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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