They say you can’t win if you don’t play. Well, Andrew Shaw is playing the game in a manner that only he can. Shaw thrives when games get physical. He likes to battle at the boards or push and shove to hold his position in front of an opposing goalie.
Shaw is at his best when he is getting under the skin of his opponents.
For Shaw, that physical edge is the equivalent to a brisk jog and a triple shot of espresso for the rest of us, it gets the adrenaline pumping and brings out the best in the Mutt as he is known in the Blackhawks locker room. In fact, some would say it’s a bad night if Shaw can get through a whole game without one of his opponents wanting to deck the Blackhawks resident agitator.
The Roughest Roads Reap The Biggest Rewards
For Andrew Shaw, there was no hockey pedigree. It was always destined to be the hard way or no way at all.
Growing up, everyone, including his own family believed that his younger brother Jason would be the one that could make it all the way to the NHL. He went undrafted twice before he was finally selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fifth round (139th) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
What should come as no surprise is the tough, gritty agitator role is one that he has honed for his entire life. First wrestling with his two brothers, and then on the ice. In fact, the iconic image of him hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2013 while blood ran down his face were even well practiced from his days playing hockey as a child.
At the age of 11, little Andrew had his chin sliced open by an opponent’s skate. He hit the ice and laid there in a pool of blood begging not to be taken out of the game. He returned a few shifts later with bandages covering his chin that he promptly bled through, but he played anyway. Does this sound familiar?
Later that same season, Shaw had another ‘minor ‘ injury. One that he tried to sell as a jammed finger, but his mother was on to him. Shaw had a broken hand.
When he was told that he would have to miss several weeks of hockey, he cried and begged the doctor not to put him in a cast. His team was about to participate in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) semifinals, and the idea of not playing was just not something that Shaw was willing to consider, even at 11 years old. Somehow, he convinced the doctor to allow him to where a playing cast that would fit under his glove. Shaw scored four goals in one game with that cast.
Some things just don’t change, as Shaw played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final with a broken rib, and famously returned just minutes after taking a puck to the face. He returned so fast it was possible the thread used to sew up his cheek was still attached to the team physician on the bench.
Then last season, Shaw was questionable for game six of the Stanley Cup Final due to a back problem. It had even been announced that he may not play. However, come game time Shaw was on the ice. A few hours later he lifted the Cup for the second time.
Shaw is beloved by fans in Chicago and loathed everywhere else because of the way he plays the game.
Andrew Shaw Is Sandpaper and Salt
Shaw gets under opponents skin by driving hard to the boards, especially when he can make contact with an opponent. He also likes to chirp incessantly and enjoys watching the blood boil.
All is right in Shaw’s world when his opponent starts to chirp back and get in his face. You can only imagine what is being said, but you can bet it is of the ‘not safe for work’ variety.
Andrew Shaw is at his best when he hits the ice like a rampaging bull, something that was missing in the early part of the season. He didn’t have that edge or his usual abrasive demeanor, and it showed in his game.
Whether it was fatigue from yet another Cup run, or perhaps some lingering issues with his back that flared up towards the end of the Stanley Cup Finals, something just wasn’t quite right with Shaw.
“I don’t know what it was at the start of the year, whether I was fatigued, not into it, just mentally and physically drained,” Shaw said. “But lately, I feel I’ve gotten back to my in-your-face type of hockey, going to the net, going to the dirty areas. That’s how I’m going to have success in this league.”
It wasn’t until the 13th game of the season that the Mutt started to find that sandpaper and salty attitude that draws the ire of nearly every opponent and coach in the league.
As it so happens, that game was against one of the Blackhawks most hated rivals within the division, the St. Louis Blues. Shaw had a goal and an assist, and things started to click again. He still wasn’t back to the hair pulling (for the coaches that have any left), vitriol spewing agitation level that the Blackhawks and their fans have come to expect, but he was on the right track.
Who Needs Powerball
After the Christmas break, Joel Quenneville wanted to reward Shaw for the strides he had taken towards getting back to his trademark gritty play around the net and deep in the corners. The reward, a lottery ticket.
Shaw got another chance at the lottery line, and this time, he had every intention of hanging on to that spot. He’d earned it by igniting nearly every line he had played on in the two weeks before the break, and Quenneville was hoping Shaw would be just what the doctor ordered to spark the slumping top line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.
“He does such a great job disturbing, going to the net. It’s great to have him on the team because, when things aren’t going well, he can disturb anything. All of a sudden, something’s happening out of nothing,” Hossa said. “There’s something special about him; the energy just surges from him.”
Since December 28th, The lottery line has been producing, and many of the goals they’ve scored have come in the greasy areas. Right in the Mutt’s wheelhouse, and whether he gets on the scoresheet or not his fingerprints were all over the place.
In the time that Shaw has been on the top line, Hossa has accounted for four goals and five assists while Shaw has grabbed two goals and seven assists. The captain has also found the spark with eight goals and six assists. With these numbers, it is pretty clear that Shaw has found a spot on the top line for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan Toews has six goals and five assists in eight-plus games since Andrew Shaw was put on the top line. #Blackhawks have won all eight.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 15, 2016
Net Front Pest
Quenneville has always been a fan of the grit that Shaw brings to the game. He plays the game like a much bigger player, but Shaw is only 5’11” and 180 pounds. The Mutt is a blue-collar player much like Quenneville was in his playing days.
He’s not the skilled forward that Teuvo Teravainen is, or the big body that Bryan Bickell has been for the Blackhawks, but he’s versatile enough to play somewhere in between the two extremes.
“He knows how he came to the NHL and he doesn’t try to all of a sudden be a skill guy. He understands his role and he’s tried to stick with that role. That’s smart by him,” Hossa said. “He knows what he has to do to be successful to score those goals, so he does it.”
Shaw’s goals tend to come when he is within ten feet of the net. When you look at his shot chart, it shows you that he shoots from an average distance of 22.9 feet away from the goal, but this is deceiving because almost none of his goals were scored from that far away.
However, the real story comes when you look at how he scores his goals. They are almost all of the greasy variety, meaning in on the net where he is cleaning up or slipping one through from the dirty areas near the blue paint.
Shaw has scored eight goals all season with one of those being an empty netter, of the remaining seven, he has two deflections, two tip-ins, and two wrap-around goals. All of those goals come from Shaw screening the goalie and playing up near the blue paint.
Any player or coach will tell you, when the scoring isn’t working for you, keep your stick on the ice and get to the front of the net. Andrew Shaw has made a home there since he was reunited with Toews and Hossa and it is paying off for all three players.
Andrew Shaw does most of the legwork on that one. Got the puck through traffic and got it to Toews.
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) January 15, 2016
Kristi is a long time hockey fan who grew up in, and around hockey rinks across the United States and Canada. A native Chicagoan, Loucks has always been an avid Blackhawks fan. Kristi also covers the Chicago Cubs and writes suspense thrillers, when not covering the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow Kristi on twitter @louckske