No communication breakdown for Habs

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET

MONTREAL - With all the injuries on the Montreal Canadiens blueline, communication between the shuffling pairs becomes even more important.

In the wake of the news the Habs had lost Josh Gorges for the season, probably their second-best defenceman behind Andrei Markov, also out for the year, rookie P.K. Subban and veteran Hal Gill have emerged as the Canadiens' new top pair.

Communciation?

Not a problem, for anybody who has spent any time hanging around them.

Gill, the classic stay-at-home veteran, and Subban, the spectacularly-gifted rusher of the puck, have been working on the communication thing on the ice.

"He gets on my case about not talking enough out there. He's telling me to make sure you let me know where you're at. We definitely like to be vocal out there. To be successful, you have to be," said Subban, who is coming off two strong performances since it was announced Thursday Gorges needed reconstructive surgery on his right knee.

"Players are so good in this league, guys know how to fall asleep on the ice and sneak in behind you, find those sleeper spots in the slot, that's how they create scoring chances. If you're not talking out there, you're definitely going to be on the ice for goals against. It's fun playing out there with Hal, for sure."

Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was Subban's best of the season, according to coach Jacques Martin, who sat Subban out for three games earlier this season. As expected, there has been a lot of push and pull between the coach, who like most coaches holds "the system" in high regard, and the youngster who spits the bit now and then.

"It's always good when your coach is praising you. You know what? Through the tough times, it's not easy. It's not easy when he's not happy with your game," said Subban, who doesn't get enough credit for how good his defensive game can be. He also knows that being strong in his own zone is the only way to gain Martin's confidence.

"That's been my strength through hockey. That's what's gotten me here, not just my offence, it's my ability to play both ways. In junior hockey and the NHL, I was alway a good plus player. To be honest with you, I always played at both ends of the rink and that's the reason why I'm here.

"When I'm not playing well defensively, he's not happy. For me personally as a player, when I feel the most confident out there is when I'm making those solid passes out of my zone, winning battles down low, competing against their top players. It's not when I'm in the offensive zone creating stuff. It's when I'm in the D-zone and I know I can shut them down."

The perception is Martin is a guy putting a harness on Subban, the tips of the coach's ears turning red when Subban whizzes by the bench on a jaunt up the ice.

Subban, who, along with Gill, assisted on Max Pacioretty's overtime winner Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, said he hasn't been told by anybody he can't take off up the ice.

"The message wasn't to me that I can't rush the puck. When the time is right, if the other team is changing, if there's a turnover, go with it, skate with it, advance the puck. That's the whole part of your job as a defenceman is get the puck up the ice as quickly as possible. When the time is right, there's nothing wrong with skating it. They encourage all our defencemen to do that, not just me. There's no hesitation there. But if we've got Tomas Plekanec waiting for the puck and I'm trying to skate through (guys), no, we've got to move it to a guy like him because he's going to create offence for our team. It's just about getting the puck up the ice."

It seems like Subban, the great communicator, got the message.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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