Top 5 P.K. Subban Moments with Canadiens

In the unlikely event it’s up for debate, yes, the host Montreal Canadiens did the right thing honoring P.K. Subban prior to their 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Jan. 13. Regardless of whether or not you liked the admittedly polarizing former Habs defenseman, you have to admit it was at the very least the classy thing to do.

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban
Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban – (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

After all, it was a game between the two teams with whom Subban enjoyed the two most illustrious tenures of his three-team, 834-game career. The Canadiens, with whom Subban played the majority of it (434), specifically came to define his life in the NHL, with the trade for Shea Weber to the Predators serving as one of the its iconic moments. It at least helped define ex-general manager Marc Bergevin’s career anyway, for better or worse.

Related: Biggest Canadiens Hits and Misses Under Ex-GM Bergevin

So, if you look at just Subban’s time with the Canadiens, before the trade, it’s obviously rife with big moments. It’s hard to deny that, considering his larger-than-life personality. In honor of Subban, here are the five largest, in increasing order.

5. Subban Ties Game 7 Late Against Bruins (2011)

As far as big Subban moments, it admittedly gets lost in the shuffle somewhat, considering the Canadiens ended up losing the game (and the series) against the Boston Bruins. However, few should ever forget how the Habs took the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Bruins to the limit in the first round in 2011. Subban was a big reason for that.

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Subban had debuted in 2009-10 for the Habs, but played just two games. So, 2010-11 served as his rookie season, during which he scored a relatively impressive 14 goals and 38 points. He saved the best for last though, almost literally… and that’s not just due to the two goals and four points he tallied in the seven-game series.

In their first-round tilt against the third-seeded Bruins, the underdog Canadiens actually took a two-game lead to start, before losing three straight. They forced a seventh game and trailed 3-2 late, before Patrice Bergeron took a high-sticking penalty, setting the stage for Subban to tie it on the ensuing power play, catching goalie Tim Thomas over-committing on a one-timer on one of the grandest stages of them all.

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Obviously, the Bruins ended up winning the game in overtime and went on to win it all. However, the Canadiens should have no regrets, having left it all on the table. Subban undeniably helped set it, along with the stage for future series against the Habs’ longtime rivals (and his incredible career).

4. Subban Scores out of Penalty Box in Playoffs (2014)

It’s a goal you’ll see on all the Subban highlight reels, serving as an example of how Subban not only lived for big moments but made them. However, his goal, coming out of the penalty box to beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask on a breakaway, probably gets remembered incorrectly as coming later on in the two teams’ 2014 second-round series.

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On the play, Subban had taken a roughing penalty. Lars Eller found him coming out of the penalty box two minutes later. Subban received the pass entering the Bruins’ zone and what follows is a thing of a beauty to put the Canadiens up 2-0 in Game 3, which the Habs went on to win 4-2 (to lead the series 2-1).

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So, all in all, big goal. It arguably wasn’t Subban’s most impactful of the series, though. That came before, in Game 1, when he scored he the double-overtime game-winning goal. It was however the one that gets remembered the most, perhaps of all the ones he’s scored in his career, maybe for its sheer beauty. The funny thing is the goal maybe isn’t even Subban’s biggest moment of the series. That came later.

3. Subban Helps Silence Bruins Fans (2014)

Subban’s biggest moment of that series maybe didn’t even come on the ice, but off it as a soundbite… ahead of Game 7. It was a series of ups and downs for the Canadiens and Subban as well, who had to deal with racist tweets from Bruins fans following the Habs’ Game 1 victory, not to mention reaction from the media.

Subban seemed to embrace it all, going on to say ahead of Game 7 on the road: “It’s going to be great. I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can’t wait to take that all away from them.”

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Obviously, the Canadiens won Game 7, by a 3-1 final score. For his part, Subban didn’t factor in on the scoresheet, nevertheless playing a team-leading 26:17 (excluding goalie Carey Price), with one shot on goal, four hits and two blocks (and one giveaway). The win sent the Canadiens to the third round, the second time he’d reach it with the Habs (eventually playing in the Stanley Cup Final with the Predators). So, for all the talk of Subban being a distraction in the locker room, he helped his teams win. There should be no disputing that.

2. Subban Wins Norris (2013)

Sure, fans can choose to focus on the negative, for example how Subban held out for a better contract to start the 2012-13 season. There are two things his detractors would be minimizing in such an instance, first how contract disputes are a way of life in the NHL as it’s a business.

Weber, the player for whom Subban was traded, even signed an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers back in the day, forcing the Predators (and later the Habs themselves) into an unenviable financial position. The goal isn’t to throw Weber under the bus or diminish his accomplishments. It’s rather show that there’s something of a double standard at play when it comes to Subban, who of course ended up winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy following that lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, which also sometimes gets glossed over in addition to how he was a finalist three times in his career (2015, 2018).

Shea Weber Montreal Canadiens
Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Ultimately, Subban was an elite talent who put his money where his mouth was in 2012-13, with 11 goals and 27 assists in 42 games. The Norris Trophy solidified his status as such, forcing Bergevin’s hand when the two-year bridge deal he had signed at the start of the season ended in 2014. The eight-year, $72 million contract he then signed meanwhile signified the beginning of the end of his Habs tenure (at least chronologically and maybe even indirectly).

1. Subban Pledges $10 Million (2015)

One season later, Subban made “the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history,” by pledging $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital through his foundation. It’s somewhat fitting it takes the top spot as the biggest moment of Subban’s career with the Canadiens as a result. For added context, the video homage of Subban before that Jan. 13 game against the Preds featured a soundbite of him saying he believes people aren’t defined by what they do, but what they do for others.

Subban’s image still adorns the side of the building, where an atrium also bears his name. He’s left a similar mark on the city as a whole. He may not be universally beloved as a one-time member of the Canadiens, but, if he isn’t for the player he was now that he’s retired, he should be for the person he is, maybe one who isn’t perfect, no, but someone whose heart was in the right place far more often than not.

Granted, Subban’s personality is obviously a large part of who he is, and some suggest it was always all about him. For example, in making the pledge in question, he didn’t go through the Canadiens, “thus robbing the organization of the ensuing public relations bounce,” in the opinion of Martin Patriquin of Maclean’s.

There is no proof that is why Bergevin traded him, to be fair. However, for one reason or another, Bergevin felt the need to, one season after Subban made the pledge (and was a finalist for the Norris for the second time in his career).

Montreal Canadiens Marc Bergevin
Ex-Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

Granted, that 2015-16 season in question was historic for the monumental collapse the Canadiens suffered. They embarrassingly missed the playoffs despite a record 9-0 start to the season (from ‘Vancouver Canucks hand Montreal Canadiens first loss of season,’ Toronto Star, Oct. 28, 2015. Maybe someone had to go, to right the ship. Was it Subban?

Maybe not, even if the Canadiens made the playoffs the following 2016-17 season. After all, with Subban, the Predators infamously reached the third round and then the Final that same postseason for the first time in history. Meanwhile the Canadiens went on to miss them the next two (and almost three, were it not for the play-in round instituted as a result of the pandemic in 2020). So, if Subban did contribute to the downfall, it wasn’t just him.

However, seeing as the Canadiens eventually reached the Final themselves with Weber in 2021, the trade is a wash in a lot of ways. It’s hard to say the Canadiens were better off with either player, but there is little doubting the Canadiens were well off with Subban in a Habs jersey.

Some haters may argue it’s telling the top moment of Subban’s time with the Canadiens wasn’t even on the ice. However, it’s just the opposite, that it’s telling how, for all the great moments Subban enjoyed while with the Canadiens on the ice or off it, his pledge to the Children’s Hospital is what people maybe remember the most. It’s what might end up having the biggest impact, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s probably the way it should be.

Maybe things played out the way they should have too. With that, Canadiens fans should have long since moved on from the trade and even Subban as a player, but not Subban as one of the city’s most impassioned and dedicated. Never. Honoring Subban ahead of a game against the Predators was a way of saying he wasn’t exactly Hab for life, but he’ll certainly stay a Montrealer, one way or another.