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Cocky, they sniff.


Thinks he's a big-time Charlie; talks when he should be listening; one day someone's going to fix his wagon but good.

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Okay Greg Campbell, whatever, Brandon Dubinsky, get stuffed Mike Richards (you too, Don Cherry).

You know why? Well, French Immersion is here to tell you why.

Cos our boy Pernell Karl can flat out PLAY! I mean, did you SEE that shot in overtime against the Flambés?

Regular readers, o rare birds that you are, will know that this corner has had a big man-crush on young Mr. Subban for quite some time now.

So anyone who swung by on the misapprehension there would be criticism and thoughtful analysis had best avert their eyes, this could get awfully smoochy.

What our easily-distracted squadron of hockey 'experts' has seen in parsing every defensive shift of the Habs' last half-dozen games can only be described as a crystallization - this star was born long ago, but only now has it truly started shining brightly.

The culmination (do we dare say consecration? we do) came against Calgary on Monday night.

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And while it's easy to point to the goal - and the subsequent celebration - as evidence, the Legend of P.K. is actually being built on subtleties and (gasp!) defensive work.

A deft poke-check here, muscling guys off the puck there, a soft pass along the boards to avoid a turnover at the blueline, covering his partner's position, knocking down a clearing attempt to thwart an odd-man rush, a perfectly synchronized dive to knock the puck off an opponent's stick in the slot.

And those are just the highlights from Monday's 5-4 white-knuckle extravaganza with Calgary.

As the ever-astute Arpon Basu pointed out here the other day, Subban is also learning how to cannily exploit the seething hatred he inspired in the hearts of opponents.

But wait, there's more.

We're certainly not to first to notice, but it bears repeating: for a guy who was being counted on to pick up the offensive slack when Andrei Markov went down with a knee owie, P.K. is also doing an unexpectedly fine job of replacing "Shutdown" Josh Gorges (who jets off for knee surgery today, we wish a speedy recovery to a stand-up guy).

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And if Jacques Martin thought benching Subban - allegedly at the behest of teammates who thought he was getting snug in his britches - was a worthwhile thing, it's safe to say he won't be spending any time in the press box any time soon.

Playing with the vastly underestimated Hal Gill, Subban has matured as beautifully as a U.S. Treasury bond in a Beijing bank vault, and is suddenly the blueliner for all seasons.

In a game last week where Pittsburgh scored four power-play goals, Subban and Gill were on the ice for exactly zero of them, despite playing more than half of the penalty-killing minutes.

On Monday, Subban played a Doughty-esque 27:13, including 6:17 short-handed with Gill (Calgary power-play: 0 for 4).

Sure, Gill gets around about as spryly as a battleship, and yes, he's kinda useless in the offensive zone, but his contribution should be measured in cubic metres and linear feet: no one in NHL history has taken up more space more strategically.

He's also exactly the mentor Subban needs: a guy who had to scrabble and claw to stay in the league, and who has won the ring all players covet.

Gill is also as talkative as Subban, in his own way, as the pupil explained after the game.

"I'm still learning, I wish I had the experience to know what to do, but I'm still learning as I go here. What makes it easy is playing with a guy like Hal. It makes it so easy. When I'm feeling like crap, they say 'hey, put it behind you'. And if I don't they grab me and they say 'hey, you've got to put it behind you and keep playing. This is all a part of the game, keep going and keep going'. And little things like that get you going," he said. "If he doesn't say anything to me, I've got a million things going through my head and I've learned in hockey to let things out, but playing with guys like that, they make it really easy for me."

Let us also fire a preventive salvo at the gaudily besuited guardian of hockey rectitude, who may well use his bully pulpit to hammer Subban over his sliding archer goal celebration.

If the NFL is known as the No Fun League for its stance on touchdown celebrations and trash-talk, the NHL is surely the No Hotdogging League.

Which is boring and uptight, and an attitude that ultimately consigns the NHL to irrelevance.

Get over it, loosen up, enjoy the exuberance and the pure, unadulterated joy of watching a budding genius ply his trade.

As much as you may think this league and this game belong to you and your acolytes, it doesn't. Not any more.

Besides, the kid had the decency to worry about whether he might have offended the hockey orthodoxy (speculation in the Montreal gutter press is that teammate Scott Gomez is among the old-school guys rubbed the wrong way by the celebration.

P.K.'s far from perfect, but it ain't bragging if you can do it, so contrition only applies up to a point.

Asked whether he's worried about retribution on or off the ice for daring to express his joy, Subban just smiled.

"I'm not afraid of anybody or anything," he said. "I was just happy, that's it."

Our boy's going to be a good one.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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