CHICAGO | Andrew Shaw doesn’t quite possess a choirboy-innocent face.
Still, Shaw looks far younger than his 21 years. The Blackhawks’ 5-foot-10, 180-pound third-line center hardly gives off the stereotyped image, in looks or stature, of an NHL enforcer or tough guy. Leave that to teammates like bearded, 6-foot-2, 223-pound Brandon Bollig or long-haired Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo.
Appearances can be deceiving — and so are NHL first impressions.
“I get run over a lot,” Shaw said Wednesday as the Hawks prepared to extend their record-breaking NHL season-opening unbeaten streak tonight in St. Louis.
“But you’ve got to bounce back up and just keep going. Just try to throw what weight I have on me around and just have fun with it. I grew up with two brothers and we always kind of messed around with that.”
Shaw possesses “sandpaper,” a quality increasingly used to describe the extra oomph the Hawks have added to dominate the NHL so far. It’s a measure of toughness the team has seemed to lack in the two seasons since winning the Stanley Cup championship in 2010. And it was the only way Shaw could stick on a veteran-dominated team coming up last season.
The ability to dig in the corners, get gritty and use fists when necessary obscured the fact Shaw had a nose for the goal. He scored 12 goals in just 37 games as a Hawks rookie — and 12 more in 38 games at minor-league Rockford.
Shaw has made his shots really count this season, complementing the Hawks’ top scorers.
With Marian Hossa knocked out by a head shot from the Canucks’ Jannik Hansen in a Feb. 19 game, Shaw was surprisingly chosen by coach Joel Quenneville as the third shootout option in overtime. He came through to complete the 4-3 victory. Then, his wrist shot late in the second period stood up Sunday as the only goal in the Hawks’ 1-0 victory over lowly Columbus.
More importantly, Shaw has seamlessly centered a productive third line with wingers Brian Bickell and Viktor Stalberg. That hole-plugging enabled longtime third-liner Dave Bolland to move up to the second line in between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
Together with an effective fourth line, the Hawks have put continual pressure on foes all 60 minutes. Quenneville called the team effort “relentless,” which is another description for Shaw individually.
“When you play ‘sandpaper,’ it gives you more room out there and allows you to have the puck a little more,” Shaw said.
“He’s got some skill underneath that sandpaper,” said Bickell. “He took a long way to get here. He stuck with it. Look at it now – it’s paid off.”
After gravitating toward glamour with clutch scoring, Shaw has received brickbats from the peanut gallery – his fellow Hawks grit guys.
“It’s funny to give a guy like that a little crap when he’s scoring game-winning goals,” said Bollig. “It’s funny to kind of mess around (with Shaw), but obviously we’re happy it happened. It’s cool to see guys like that contribute.”