Let’s dive right into this one while proudly admitting that it’s silly, dumb, and fun. Hockey’s best player and its most marketable player now have an enjoyable mini-beef going to spice up what’s been a pretty engrossing series so far.
Following Nashville’s Game 3 win, P.K. Subban was asked what was said between him and Sidney Crosby in a late-game scrum. I thought it was clear that Subban, who took a pause before answering and gave an impish glance at the camera after, was joking when he said that Crosby “told me my breath smelled. But I used some Listerine before the game, so I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Maybe it was even a callback to last year’s playoffs, when Phil Kessel misunderstood a Pierre McGuire question about his breath?
Subban stuck to the story in his postgame media scrum. (And I still thought he was joking—players never reveal what’s actually said on-ice, and this was a fine, unobjectionable decoy. But if this turns out to be viral marketing for Listerine, I’m going to be so mad.)
On Sunday, Subban was asked how his breath was that day. “It’s better, I guess,” he said, then noted that his teammates had left mouthwash in his locker for him.
All of this is P.K. being P.K. He’s a good quote, but he’s also very good at reading a room—he realized reporters had jumped on this breath thing, and decided to keep going with it. There are players and executives in the league who aren’t big fans of the way Subban often manages to get headlines, but—and this is me speaking as both fan and media—I think it’s great. It gives us all something fun to talk about.
(And not for nothing, since everyone’s asking Subban about this, no one’s asking him about what was actually said on the ice, or about what looks like some actual bad blood potentially emerging in this series, or any inane questions about strategy that he has no intentions of divulging. Subban’s smart enough to be doing this on purpose. The banter about bad breath makes these endless interview sessions easier for everyone, himself included.)
The distraction (and I mean that word in its most pleasant, most useful sense) extends to cover his teammates too. Roman Josi insisted Subban’s breath “smells great.” Pekka Rinne said Subban “always flosses.” For the Predators, Subban’s existence means fewer cameras and recorders in their faces. I guarantee you Rinne would a million times rather be asked about this than about whether his head is on straight following a bounceback game.
Yesterday, Crosby was finally asked about what had rapidly become the story of the off-day. He revealed what we’d assumed from the beginning: “Yeah, he made that up. I didn’t say that.”
Is it just me, or did Crosby seem genuinely ticked off by this? “He likes the attention, and things like that. If he wants to make stuff up, what can I do?” If he’s actually annoyed, well, then Subban would have to consider this a success. Maybe not as valuable a success as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both being held without a shot on goal in Game 3, but victories come in many sizes.
“The gamesmanship’s awesome,” Subban said. “That’s what you love, and that’s probably what you miss the most when you finish playing are those battles, the game within the game, I guess you could say.”