Pernell Karl: love him or hate him, but get used to him
Cavort TD Garden and mention the name Pernell Karl?
The likely response? “Who? Never heard of him.”
Ad-lib the conversation with: “How about those initials P.K.?”
What follows is likely a healthy dose of expletive deletives or a string of admirable adjectives to describe one of the most electrifying and talented defenseman on the planet.
Last week, P.K. Subban’s initials merged with two other household letters, when he made the cover of Canada’s edition of Sports Illustrated.
“Someone should get fired at Sports Illustrated for that,” teammate Max Pacioretty joked.
SI’s promo for Subban, written by Hockey Hall-of-Fame writer Michael Farber, went a little like this: “There is no in-between with Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman P.K. Subban. You either love him or hate him. In reality, Pernell Karl Subban wants what every other player wants in the NHL, a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in June, and with little regard about how they do it. But the Canadiens haven’t hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1993, the last of their record 24 championships.”
“When is the last time the fans had a player who played with the same passion that they have for watching the game?” Subban says within. “The fans see a player who understands what it means to wear the jersey. There’s a difference between that and being a good hockey player.”
Saturday night, No. 76 came back to TD Garden for the first time since his scintillating performance in Game 7 of the divisional playoffs last May. One that sent the Bruins to the links — and Subban to the Brinks.
On the heels of his gold medal in Sochi in February and the Canadiens’ exit against the New York Rangers in the conference Final – after losing Carey Price in Game 2 – Montreal opened the vault for P.K. with an 8-year contract at $9 million a year. That tidy sum puts Subban among the best players in the game with surnames like Shea Weber, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, to name a few.
The 2013 Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the NHL had a great season two years ago — when the lockout shortened the season to 42 games –putting up 11-27-38.
At just 25, Subban’s emerging iron-man label comes via missing but one game in the last three seasons. He has played all 22 thus far with five goals and eight assists.
His career total over 285 regular-season games: 42-123-167.
Last year, he played all 82 regular-season games with 10-43-53 total, nudged out of a second Norris by Chicago’s Duncan Keith. And then 17 playoff games with five goals and nine assists. In seven of those against mega-rival Boston, Subban put on a show, especially in Games 1, 3 and 7 – all Habs’ victories.
The Bruins, banged up with five key players out last night, faced a Montreal team playing a seventh game in 12 days; they play Sunday night for eight in 13.
Regardless, Subban didn’t skip a beat in Beantown, being on the ice for both Montreal goals. No points but a characteristic catalyst, enjoying a chorus of displeasure every shift.
That would stand up in the 2-0 final. Montreal – and Subban – continuing their mastery over the Black and Gold with a black-and-blue 3-0 record thus far in the young season and a 13-5 goal disparity.
Subban, unavailable for postgame quips, had plenty of input from his supporting cast about his prolific profile.
“We need him playing like that to win,” Pacioretty said.
“He finds a way to play well against this team,” Carey Price said about his pesky and petulant defenseman’s play against Boston, and after his first career shutout over Boston. “He always brings energy.”
“This was a strong game for P.K. and a strong game for our team,” coach Michel Therrien chimed.
Andrei Markov and Subban are among the best pair of back-stoppers on any NHL blue line. “I didn’t see that [Sports Illustrated],” Markov said. “P.K.’s everywhere, so I’m not surprised.”
Love him or hate him, it will be that way for a long time to come.