Andrew Shaw sparking the Blackhawks' power play

Andrew Shaw sparking the Blackhawks' power play
December 12, 2013, 10:45 am
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Andrew Shaw accepts his role as a power-play piñata.

The Chicago Blackhawks forward heads to the net knowing he’s going to get hacked. He knows he’s going to get whacked -- and kicked and sticked and punched.

“Obviously there are some big defensemen out there who can lay the lumber on you,” he said. “Sometimes goalies take a shot, too.”

But the shots Shaw has taken from the opposition have been worth it, as the Blackhawks’ shots have gotten through thanks to his net-front presence. Whether he is just providing that screen or deflecting point shots, Shaw’s penchant for good placement has been beneficial.

“That was something we missed two or three years ago,” said Duncan Keith, who scored a power-play goal (with Shaw in front of the net) in the Blackhawks’ 7-2 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday. “If you don’t have a guy in front of the net and have a shot from the point, nine times out of 10, the goalie’s going to see it and make a save.

“It’s important to have that guy in front of the net and Shaw’s been great at it this year,” Keith said. “He just keeps getting better, learning how to screen a goalie and jump on the loose pucks to help in puck recovery after we do get a shot.”

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For Shaw, the physical abuse he takes is worth the results.

“You just try to forget about it,” Shaw said about the net-front beatings. “(Assistant coach) Jamie Kompon is always all over me: ‘Be in front, be ready for those rebounds, recover those pucks. Just stand your ground.’”

Shaw has played the last three games after missing two with an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks have scored six power-play goals these past three games; Shaw was in front of the net on four of them, getting a piece of one for his own score.

“A lot of the credit goes to (Patrick Kane) and (Jonathan Toews) for making good plays or Duncs and me shooting from the point. But without a doubt, Shaw is the key on our power-play unit,” Sharp said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he does a great job taking the goalie’s eyes away. You look at the last three games: every one of those point shots (goes through) because Shaw’s in front.”

Shaw wasn’t a power-play guy coming up through the minors but coach Joel Quenneville threw him into that role last season. Quenneville’s liked how Shaw’s embraced it.

“He has the knack of finding the perfect spot, where it’s almost like the perfect lane for the screen. You still have to have a quick stick to deflect pucks and he’s not afraid to go there,” Quenneville said. “He’s willing and he’s good at retrieving and sustaining pucks, be it off entries or loose pucks around the net or behind the goal line. He does a lot of good things for the power play, particularly getting in front of the net.”

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Playing that part requires the right mindset. Like a shot blocker, you have to be willing to sustain some pain and bruises.

“There’s a willingness to go there, and it’s not an easy place to travel,” Quenneville said. “In order to score in this league you’ve got to get to the front of the net. You have to be willing to get there. That tenacity that he brings compliments him to be that guy.”

Shaw has taken on many roles with the Blackhawks, from pest to third-line center. Net-front presence on the power play has been his most noticeable one lately, and all the bumps and bruises he’s gotten there have been worth it.

“They gave me a shot here and I ran with it,” Shaw said. “As long as you’re taking (goalies’) sight away and just standing your ground, the point (men) are going to get the puck to the net and good things can happen.”