CHICAGO — The premise of the question seemed to irritate Claude Julien. It was precisely the kind of reaction Andrew Shaw, the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound second-year winger, would have appreciated.
It was suggested he had fallen through the cracks of the Bruins’ game plan. That, somehow, Shaw went unaccounted for when he stood in front of the net and deflected a puck that got past goaltender Tuukka Rask for the winning goal in Chicago’s 4-3 victory in triple overtime in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday.
When Julien was asked if the coaching staff had planned for Shaw, whose job it is to orbit the stars in the Blackhawks’ constellation, he chafed at the notion.
“I don’t think we do our game planning around Mr. Shaw,’’ Julien said. “Our game plan is against the Chicago Blackhawks. We know he’s an agitator. We know he’s good at embellishing, too, at times. We know all that stuff. We’ve done our research.’’
No matter how much intelligence the Bruins had on the Blackhawks, none of it seemed to help them keep Shaw from being an irritant.
Asked for his reaction to Julien’s “embellishing’’ remark about Shaw, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opted to avoid a war of rhetoric by taking the high road, saying, “I addressed that [Thursday]; said I wasn’t going there.
“Shaw, he’s a competitive kid, plays a hard game,’’ Quenneville said. “He knows there’s rewards by going to the front of the net, the hard areas. He’s got a relentless attitude, approach to it. We’ve talked in the past. We always visit different situations.
“One thing is, he pushes it.’’
So how do the Bruins intend to push back? How will they respond in Game 2 Saturday night at United Center?
There is the strong possibility the Bruins will fight fire with fire by rolling out their own feisty agitator, Brad Marchand.
“We’re both agitators,’’ said Shaw, who claims to have patterned his game after Marchand’s. “We both play physical and we’re always chirping. He’s perfected it and that’s what I’m trying to do to my game. We both walk a fine line and I’ve always looked up to him and admired him.’’
While it might be a physical impossibility for Shaw to look up to the 5-9 Marchand, there seemed to be a mutual respect for the roles they play.
In this case, they are mirror-image agitators.
But Shaw took no offense at that label. He fits the description, after all.
“I take it as a compliment,’’ said Shaw, who was passed over in two previous drafts before the Blackhawks selected the native of Belleville, Ontario, 139th overall in the 2011 NHL draft. “It’s how my game has developed through my career. It’s what got me here. I’ve got to stick to it, just compete and work to the best of my abilities.’’
Said Jonathan Toews, “I think you could ask players on other teams and they’ll tell you that he’s not the type of guy that they like to play against. But that’s what we love about him.
“We love having a guy like that on our team. He’s not afraid.’’
Shaw threw his weight around by tying for a team-high nine hits, helping the Blackhawks outhit Boston, 61-59. His assist on Chicago’s second goal and his deflection for the winning goal gave him a 5-4—9 total in 18 playoff games this season. Marchand is 4-9—13 over 17 games.
Asked if he saw a little bit of himself in Shaw, Marchand said, “Yeah, he’s a good player. Obviously, he had a big goal there and a nice assist, so he’s a good player.’’
Was it flattering that Shaw emulates him? “It’s nice to hear,’’ Marchand said. “Everyone is trying to find other guys with similar styles and see what works for them and that’s what it might be for him. He’s coming into the league, but he’s obviously a very good player.’’
Shaw’s ability to agitate was never more evident in Game 1 than when he jousted with 6-9, 255-pound Zdeno Chara. Shaw had his head snapped back when he induced a high-sticking penalty that gave the Blackhawks a 5-on-3 opportunity at 12:53 of the second period.
“He’s a big boy,’’ Shaw said of Chara. “A good battle in front of the net with him there. I think I held my own. He’s a great player.’’
In that moment, it seemed, Shaw had perfected the art of agitation, the way Marchand had done against Vancouver’s Henrik and Daniel Sedin during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
“I mean, you just want to find a way to be able come into the league,’’ Marchand said. “Sometimes you need something different than other guys for [teams] to look at you. That was my way of coming into the league. I had to do something different, being a smaller guy.
“Now, you just want to develop and be a better player.’’
So who was Marchand’s role model? “I wanted to be like [Martin] St. Louis [of Tampa Bay],’’ Marchand said with a chuckle. “But I know I didn’t have the skill. Seeing him being a smaller guy, he worked hard and he was quick. I wanted to be like him, only I had less skill.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.