CHICAGO – As Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw parked his measly 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame in enemy territory Saturday, he resembled a small dog more than a hockey player.
You know the type.
It’s the dog that never realized he was small. Maybe nobody told him. Maybe he refused to listen.
Anyway, that’s Shaw.
And Shaw is a big reason why the Hawks have a chance to rescue their record-setting season.
The Hawks thumped the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. The series will return to Detroit on Monday for Game 6, when the Hawks will try to erase the Wings’ 3-2 series edge and force a winner-take-all Game 7.
Shaw was named the No. 1 star of Game 5 with two goals, including the go-ahead goal on the power play during the second period. After Shaw was announced as the game’s top player, he skated toward center ice and lifted his stick in appreciation as 22,014 fans roared in gratitude.
Who is this guy, anyway?
I did some research a few practices back to learn more about the 21-year-old from Ontario.
“He never stops talking,” Hawks forward Bryan Bickell said. “All of the guys are like, ‘Where do you get all of this energy from?’ He doesn’t take naps. He’s just a high-energy kid.”
The no-nap thing seemed weird.
As far as I knew, every hockey player took naps. That’s how they fill a big chunk of the time between a morning skate (typically at 10:30 a.m.) and a night game (typically at 7 or 7:30 p.m.).
Is it weird?
“Yeah, I think so,” Hawks forward Brandon Saad said. “I mean, everyone thinks it’s weird.”
So that’s official. It’s weird.
I asked Shaw why he didn’t take naps like the rest of the hockey universe.
“I never nap,” Shaw said with a shrug. “I just feel like I get enough sleep at night.”
Well, maybe not Saturday night.
After all, how could Shaw wind down and fall asleep a couple of hours after he stood in front of the Wings’ net and deflected a shot past Jimmy Howard to seize a 2-1 lead? Shaw absorbed all kinds of punishment from Wings defenders Niklas Kronwall (6-0, 190 pounds) and Jonathan Ericsson (6-4, 221) as he parked in front of the crease, but somehow he managed to hold his ground and redirect the crucial power-play goal to break a tie score.
A second after Shaw scored, Kronwall slashed him and Ericsson knocked him down. Perfect.
Imagine how angry those two big Wings were one period later as Shaw swooped behind the net and stuffed the puck past Howard for his second goal of the game and his third of the playoffs.
“My play gets under people’s skin,” Shaw said. “Finishing every check. Giving them little whacks here and there. Going to the net. Not everyone likes that.”
But doesn’t Shaw ever de-program? Is he always such a nuisance?
“I de-program when it’s just me and my girl,” Shaw said. “But when I’m with my buddies, it’s the same thing. Video games, ping-pong, pool. Anything. I just try to get under their skin a little bit.
“It’s just who I am. I hate losing, no matter what it is.”
All of this got me thinking.
Maybe being a pest and getting under opponents’ skin was like Shaw’s version of scoring goals. Maybe drawing slashes from defenders and swear words from the opposing bench was more fun for him than imitating one of his top-line teammates and firing a puck into the net.
Shaw shook his head sideways. This time, I was the one being weird.
“Goals feel a lot better,” he said.
Two goals must feel great.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.