Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw coming up big
CHICAGO -- It took an epic Stanley Cup Final battle, but undersized Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw finally got a leg up on his NHL career.
Early on Thursday morning, Shaw's goal at 12:08 of triple overtime lifted the Hawks to a 4-3 victory in Game 1 against Boston. After being knocked down in the offensive right corner as he was challenging Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the puck, Shaw got back up and went to the net, hoping that good fortune would find him. Sure enough, Michal Rozsival drove a shot through traffic. Dave Bolland, who was tied up with Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, tipped it first. Then Shaw got his shin pad on it, knocking it past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and, in the process, delivering himself into the national spotlight.
"Take a chance that something good can happen," Shaw explained. "If you work for it, it'll find you."
That's Shaw's career in a nutshell. He's hustled and hit and hectored his way from overlooked draft choice to effective NHL regular to playoff hero.
"He never stops going," says Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. "Energizer bunny. Never stops."
When Shaw was passed over in the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Draft, he went back to playing Midget Hockey. When he finally did get to the OHL, with the Niagara IceDogs in 2008, he gained a reputation as an effective pest, a scrapper, and surprisingly skilled player, but not one who generated any interest from NHL teams. They skipped him at one draft and then another, each club letting seven rounds go by while taking many forgettables who made more sense than Shaw at the time. He was an undersized guy, after all, listed at 5'-10" and 180 pounds, but only after a foreign exchange rate kicked in.
"People get caught up with size, but it isn't as if smaller guys can't play," Shaw said. "I just never paid attention to anyone who said it wasn't going to happen for me."
After two seasons with Niagara, Shaw was traded to the Owen Sound Attack, for whom he amassed 54 points and 135 penalty minutes in 66 games before earning tournament All-Star honors by scoring 10 goals in 20 postseason matches while helping his underdog team win the 2011 Mermorial Cup.
The Blackhawks finally took a flier on him with the 139th pick in the fifth round of the draft that year. He's been a fireplug and a sparkplug ever since he arrived in Chicago from the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, hoping to pattern his game after Wendell Clark, the 15-year veteran who spent most of his time with the Maple Leafs, playing larger and meaner than his 5'-11", 200-pound frame. On Jan. 5, 2012, Shaw wasted no time in making himself the center of attention in his NHL debut against the Flyers. On his second shift, he scrapped with Zac Rinaldo and needed several stitches for his troubles. He came back to score his first NHL goal later in the game against Ilya Bryzgalov.
"He's a handful in the dressing room, too," said Hawks' defenseman Brent Seabrook. "He's a high-energy guy. He likes to have fun, get guys going, jumping around the room, bouncing around. He's pretty much the same as he is on the ice, just without skates on."
"Best 19th-rounder ever," joked Patrick Kane, the Hawks' winger who also sits next to Shaw in the team's dressing room."There are times when I've almost got to tell him to shut up. He just asks questions and doesn't stop talking when you're next to him there between periods ... It speaks to his character, how he can put all that behind him and come in and play in the NHL and be a factor. He does a lot of good things for us, whether it's hits, being an agitator, even scoring goals. He probably scores more goals off his shin pads than he does his sticks."
Shaw's excitable yapping got the better of him after his Game 1 winner when he dropped a few unprintable words on NBC during a postgame interview. During his printable ramblings, Shaw sounded like an Oscar winner in overdrive. "I love Bolly. I love shin pads," he said.
Imagine a debate between Shaw and Boston's chirpy Brad Marchand, an event that could rival Lincoln and Douglas, though more colorful and somewhat less erudite.
"[Marchand] is a very effective player," says Shaw, who can empathize with Boston's reigning pest. "If I can do the things for my team that he does for his, I'm doing my job."
At times, Shaw has taken his job to extremes. He served a three-game suspension for hitting Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith in last year's playoffs. Now his job includes getting under the skin of everyone from the smallish Marchand to 6'-9" Zdeno Chara.
"He's the strongest guy I've faced," says Shaw. "He's got size, reach. I just try to get low on him. Well, I am low on him. So, try to stay low on him and just bring that killer instinct into the battle. Just throw your weight around, whatever you have."
What Shaw has is enough gumption to fill much larger skates than his own. Thanks to his timely nose for the net, some indefatigable industry -- and those shin pads -- his team has good tales to tell about his heroics.
"We wanted to go home," he says, about ending Game 1 of the Cup final shortly after midnight had passed. "I saw kids sleeping in the stands, grown-ups keeping them out too late. Someone had to do something."
If figures that Shaw had the energy to do it.