Blackhawks' Shaw hoping to stay out of the doghouse
The "mutt" was in Joel Quenneville's doghouse with two games left before the all-star break.
Andrew Shaw, the Blackhawks' undersized center known as "The Mutt," was drifting from his usual gritty style. His defense lagged. He wasn't battling hard enough in the tough areas of the ice. His effectiveness waned.
It reached a boiling point during a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Shaw was on the ice for the Stars' first 2 goals and Quenneville practically stapled him to the bench. Shaw posted a minus-3 rating, won only one of five faceoffs and logged 9:24, down about six minutes from his average ice time.
He blamed himself the next day, reset his focus and did something about it in the Hawks' 6-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes, the team's last game before the break.
Shaw, a fifth-round draft pick playing his third NHL season, led the way with 2 goals. Even more impressive was the way he scored the first one, by charging to the net front to close from close range.
The mutt's bite was back, if only for a game. Afterward, the benching still was fresh in his mind.
"I knew I'd get it back, but it was a huge wake-up call," Shaw said. "I was embarrassed, disappointed in myself and I wasn't going to let that happen again."
The trick now is bringing that kind of effort more consistently in the remaining 35 games of the regular season, starting with Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Statistically speaking, with 8 goals and 6 assists in 47 games, Shaw is on pace to meet his output from the previous two seasons. His game, however, is based on more than stats.
Shaw's best game isn't for the weak-willed. It's not just blue-collar hockey. It's black-and-blue collar hockey, the kind suited for a big body. Generously listed at 5-feet-11, 179 pounds, Shaw's biggest asset is his giant heart.
"It's mentally tough, and it's physically tough," he said. "That's why men play the game and boys don't. You've got to work and compete out there every time you're on the ice. I feel the harder I work, it makes more room for me on the ice and it allows me to use the little skill that I have."
That last part was said with a smirk. Shaw has more than a "little skill." It just takes some hard work for it to shine.
His first goal against Arizona was a perfect example.
After nearly scoring on two stuff attempts at the left post, he headed straight for the front of the crease once Bryan Bickell got the puck to Teuvo Teravainen. Shaw received the feed from the right wing, pulled it to the other side with his backhand to fool goalie Mike Smith and scored with a wrist shot that made it 2-0.
"He's a really big part of our offense," said Patrick Kane, who has played on lines with Shaw at center in the past.
"He scores a lot of goals in front of the net. You see the kind of skills he has on that first one. He's got really good hands and he can score goals around the net. We'll need him going, especially the last half of the year."
Shaw's long, celebratory slide to the side boards after that goal bore the look of genuine relief.
"I needed it for myself," he said. "I just had to go out there and keep working, keep moving forward and simplify my game, and I knew I'd get it back."