Gritty Andrew Shaw gives Blackhawks a little bit of everything
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com February 26, 2013 5:36PM
Hawks winger Andrew Shaw celebrates his goal in the second period. The Chicago Blackhawks shut out the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0 Sunday February 24, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 26, 2013 8:15PM
In the last week, Andrew Shaw scored the decisive goal in a shootout victory against the hated Vancouver Canucks and the lone goal in a taut 1-0 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets to keep the Blackhawks’ record season-opening point streak alive.
That’s heady stuff for a 21-year-old checking-line center in his second NHL season, but Shaw is staying grounded. His veteran teammates make sure of it.
‘‘I can’t get ahead of myself,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘I’ve got to stay level-headed and make sure I’m grounded, and I compete and work hard. That’s my game. If you’re getting too cocky in the dressing room, they’ll let you know.’’
Cocky’s not the word for the Hawks these days, but confident definitely is. And it’s consistent contributions from role players such as Shaw that have helped fuel their remarkable 16-0-3 run. Shaw has four goals and three assists and has been an effective front-of-the-net presence on the power play, all while growing into his new defense-first role on the Hawks’ third line, centering Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg.
‘‘[Shaw has] really progressed in the middle, and you’ve got to like his knowing where to go,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Offensively, defensively, he finds a way to be an influence shift to shift.’’
Shaw was a revelation as a rookie last season, scoring 12 goals in 37 games after a January call-up. But he has assumed Dave Bolland’s old role on the third line this season, meaning his job is to play defense first and to keep opposing teams’ top lines in check. His continued offensive contributions, though, have been crucial as the Hawks play one-goal game after one-goal game — 13 in all.
‘‘That’s been one of the biggest things for us, other than the way we’re playing defensively and our goaltending,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘Every single night, we’ve got guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw scoring winning goals, and that’s great. It takes pressure off the guys that are always expected to score goals. We know those guys are going to keep doing their job consistently. But when we can win games relying on certain guys like that, it makes our team much more dangerous and much more difficult to play against.’’
Shaw also has shown he has a bit of nasty in his game, too. On Friday against the San Jose Sharks, he ran Joe Pavelski into the boards in the final minute, a hit so brazen it prompted Ryan Clowe to leap off the bench and go after Shaw, earning a two-game suspension from the league. And against the Blue Jackets, his cross-check to the back of James Wisniewski invited a retaliatory spear in the midsection, one that left Shaw ‘‘stunned’’ and doubled over in pain as he skated back to the bench. He also fought the Nashville Predators’ Richard Clune on the day his four-game point streak ended two weeks ago.
In other words, Shaw plays a lot bigger than his 5-10, 180-pound frame would suggest, a useful talent in the rough-and-tumble role of being a front-of-the-net presence on the power play.
‘‘It’s not an easy job, especially for a smaller guy,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘You know there’s definitely abuse [when you] travel those areas. . . . He’s done a real good job at it.’’
Shaw — with those veteran teammates in his ear, of course — keeps saying that he’s focused on his defense, on playing hard, on sticking to the Hawks’ system, and that any offense will come as a result of all that.
But the way the Hawks have been possessing the puck and controlling the play through the first six weeks of the season, everyone’s getting in on the action — from the top line to the fourth line, from the power play to the penalty kill.
‘‘It’s like being a kid again, just always having the puck on your stick, always contributing on offense and defense,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s unbelievable.’’