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Subban's star shines brighter after Habs' playoff run

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James Murphy, TSN.ca contributor
6/2/2014 5:20:55 PM
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NHL broadcaster Pierre McGuire admitted he was taken by surprise when at the end of his post game interview with P.K. Subban following the Canadiens' Game 7 win over the Bruins in the second round, after the Montreal defenceman planted a huge kiss on McGuire's forehead as he exclaimed, "Yeah baby!" before heading off to celebrate with his teammates in their dressing room.

"I didn't see that coming at all," McGuire told TSN.ca recently.

But what McGuire has always seen coming was the performance and level of play Subban showed in the Canadiens' run through to Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Subban finished the playoffs with 14 points in 17 games, with seven of those points coming in that series win over the Bruins. He played a major role in helping Montreal upset the President's Trophy winners and helped lead his team to within two wins of their first Stanley Cup Final berth in 21 years.

As McGuire pointed out, it wasn't just Subban's skill - that helped him win the 2013 Norris Trophy - that allowed him to take a big step forward in the playoffs, but also the enthusiasm he showed in that interview and how he applies that both on and off the ice.

"I remember when P.K. went to his first World Junior Championship and talking to him before he flew over to Pardubice," McGuire said. "He was beaming and just so excited to go over there and to be part of the experience.

Obviously then he was such a raw talent and he's worked hard to get to where he is now. But that excitement and enthusiasm for the game has never faded. It's still there now and that's a main reason for what you're seeing now. That's why he's a leader. He loves the game; he plays it the right way and you're seeing that more and more now. Can he improve? Yes and he'll tell you that. But what you're seeing now is the potential anyone who knew him well saw."

While winning the Norris Trophy last season impressed his teammates, that passion for the game and what he did to help the Canadiens go deep into the playoffs was equally if not more impressive.

"He's definitely maturing and he's showing why he won the Norris Trophy," said teammate Carey Price on Saturday. "He had an excellent postseason. For us to win the Cup, we're going to need him to play that way.

He's a fun-loving guy; he's fun to hang out with and he makes it enjoyable to come to the rink every day. He's a really good buddy of mine obviously and I was happy to see him succeed in the playoffs and prove a lot of doubters wrong."

Canadiens defenceman Mike Weaver was acquired at the trade deadline and in his short time as Subban's teammate, realized how infectious the 25-year-old's love of the game was having an effect on him.

"I think a lot of the time the enjoyment of the game is sometimes forgotten," said Weaver, who is an unrestricted free agent in July. "You almost gotta get back to the time when you had fun playing hockey and instead of it being a job, it's more of a privilege. Playing with him and even in playing in Montreal, I started to enjoy the game again."

When told of Weaver's comments, a flattered Subban told the media that enjoying the game and embracing the moment has always been an important part of his approach.

"I enjoy every moment," Subban said on Saturday. "Through the ups and downs you have to because as much as careers are long, they're short too. You just don't know what can happen so you have to enjoy your time when you're out there. The playoffs are a fun time to play and I obviously enjoy playing that time of year."

Subban, who is a restricted free agent again this July (this time with arbitration rights), will continue to be a hot topic as the offseason gets under way. But before he headed off for what will be his shortest summer yet as an NHLer, he made it clear he wants to continue to enjoy the playoff moments with the Canadiens and help them build towards and achieve their ultimate goal of winning their 25th Stanley Cup.

"There's something about that," Subban explained. "There's something about building a team and being part of a special group that you've seen grow from the bottom up and add blocks along the way. There's something special about winning with a team like that. I believe we have an opportunity to do that here.

I look at the Montreal Canadiens winning the Cup in '93 and only being to the conference finals two times since then, and I've been to them both times. A lot of guys go their whole career and never make it to a conference final and get to within two wins of a Stanley Cup Final, so I understand the importance of taking advantage of those moments. It's unfortunate we didn't get that done this year, but I know that the future is bright and there's going to be plenty of opportunities for us to redeem ourselves and take that next step."

James Murphy is a freelance reporter who also writes for NHL.com, the Boston Herald and XNsports.com. He covered the Boston Bruins/NHL for last 11 seasons writing for ESPNBoston.com, ESPN.com, NHL.com, NESN.com, the Boston Metro, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine. Murphy also currently hosts the radio show "Murphy's Hockey Law" heard Saturdays 9-11 AM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio and 4-6 PM ET on Websportsmedia.com. In addition to that, he is a regular guest TSN 690 in Montreal and Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio as well as a hockey analyst on CTV Montreal.

P.K. Subban (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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