From Mike Ribeiro to Max Lapierre to today’s P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens have definitely employed their fair share of players with a knack for embellishment that would make most academy award-winning actors jealous. However, while the faces in Montreal may have changed, the tired old rhetoric has remained the same. The Habs will simply do whatever it takes to win, including perform as if they’ve been critically injured or even crippled in an attempt to draw a penalty against their opponent. After Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Montreal snapped his team’s six-game winning streak, Boston head coach Claude Julien went on the attack, calling out Habs’ blueliner P.K. Subban.
“It’s pretty obvious, you know, when PK (Subban) gets hit and he throws himself into the glass and holds his head. And you know what if we start calling those penalties for embellishment maybe teams will stop doing it. But until we take charge of that it’s going to be an issue.” – Claude Julien
This wasn’t the only occurrence of Montreal’s favorite defenseman resorting to some unethical tactics in an attempt to gain an advantage on Sunday. Not once but twice did Subban take a shot at a Boston forward, proceed to get up in said player’s face (first Brad Marchand, later Nathan Horton) and then fail to back it up when (presumably) challenged to fight. It is the same type of on-ice behavior that hockey fans have come to expect from a guy with a whole boatload of talent, but a completely misguided approach to the game. Subban does possess the necessary skill set to one day become an elite two-way defenseman in the NHL, which really makes you wonder why he bothers to waste time with such underhanded antics.
Subban’s teammate, Max Pacioretty, the same guy whose “serious concussion” sparked an outcry of thousands of Quebec residents attempting to prosecute Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara for an on-ice collision in 2011, earned the award for Sunday’s best embellishment after being caught up high by his own stick and appearing as if he’d been hit by a truck. With the Canadiens, the constant dives and embellishments are a product not of each individual player but of a problem within the hockey culture in Montreal that desperately needs fixing.
It didn’t seem as if the embellishments had too much of an impact on Sunday’s contest in particular (certainly not as much as it has in years past), but Julien said what’s needed to be said for a long while now. It’s also extraordinarily easy to see how the frustration of having to deal with the same foul antics year after year can lead to the type of tirade Boston’s typically easy-going bench boss went on after the game.
“It’s frustrating because, you know, tonight as everybody saw there was a lot of embellishment. And this is embarrassing for our game – the embellishing – and right now they’ve got over 100 power plays so far and it’s pretty obvious why. And we’re trying to clean that out of our game, and it’s got to be done soon because it’s not about tonight it’s about the game, and the embellishment embarrasses our game.” – Claude Julien
While I wouldn’t exactly consider Brad Marchand an “objective observer”, by any means, I’m sure tons of other players across the league would agree with this view of Subban and the Habs, via the Boston Globe.
Marchand on Subban: “He’s running scared from Horty… shows what kind of character they have there.”
— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) March 4, 2013
In a sport like hockey, where honor and pride among players and coaches is absolutely paramount, I can’t imagine not being disheartened by having such a poor reputation. Simply put, resorting to diving and embellishing shows nothing but a lack of respect towards your opponent and the NHL would be wise to start cracking down on it immediately to help preserve the integrity of the game.
Coach Julien may end up a little lighter in the wallet after Sunday’s press conference, but if his words are enough to draw even a handful of additional embellishment penalties, it’ll be a step in the right direction for the league.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Contributor to the New England Hockey Journal. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.