One week into the regular season and it is clear which Blackhawk player opponents will want to mess with the least, Center Andrew Shaw. Behind captain Jonathan Toews, the depth at center for the club is going to be tested and though only a couple of games in, Shaw is showing his mettle, especially his performance in the opener against the Washington Capitals. In that game Shaw did everything a hard-nosed player needs to do to succeed in the NHL. Shaw doled out five registered hits (with others going unrecorded) and a blocked shot. He followed that up with a decent performance in Tampa Bay, winning 55% of his face-offs and again registering five hits.
It was easy to pick Shaw for this week’s honor and hopefully that is not a trend for this season. Not to say Shaw being the team’s grittiest player would be a bad thing, but rather the lack of urgency and toughness the ‘Hawks have exhibited in the first 10 days of the season should be gone by the end of October. If it isn’t, then Joel Quenneville will have to do his best Nick Nolte impersonation.
Shaw displayed tenacity in each of the team’s contests that went unmatched. There were moments when Marcus Kruger displayed his grizzly side, but Shaw managed to remain hungry during his time on the ice. Even with his limited stature, Shaw’s energy will lead him to playing impact roles in some of the team’s schemes. He will get in front of goaltenders to create a screen and will be counted on to finish fore checks, even though he is neither the biggest or fastest guy on the ice. The rest of the team needs to look at the game tape and see the intensity Shaw is bringing.
I do understand the more relaxed start to the season. It is going to be a long 82 games before the playoffs and I am sure many of the players are still reveling in their Stanley Cup experience. If i were in their shoes, I would still be drinking my mid-game Gatorade out of the cup and passing it along the bench to incoming skaters. However, I don’t see Quenneville allowing this to go on for too long and I expect by next week, there may be more than one legitimate nominee for Gritty Player of the Week.