Andrew Shaw’s hat trick on Tuesday night in an 8-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings was a great reminder of just how important the feisty forward has been to the Canadiens’ success this season.His impact goes well beyond a one-game performance.When healthy, Shaw takes his rightful place among the crucial support players in the Canadiens’ system.
Andrew Shaw of the Montreal Canadiens battles for the puck with Filip Hronek of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 26, 2019, in Detroit.
Gregory Shamus /
There are a few things that Shaw has always done well. He frustrates opponents, creates havoc in the opposing crease and is a never-ending source of energy and hard work for his team. But this season, we’re seeing Shaw change the narrative from being a talented pest to being a reliable point producer, as well as a stalwart defensive presence.He’s also done a good job channelling his energy to the right areas. Instead of getting thrown out of a game, he’s more likely to chase a goaltender from one this season.He still brings a surplus of energy to any line he plays on, but he’s made a habit of scoring goals at a much higher rate than his career average. Shaw has also provided more primary assists. The result is a player who is producing almost three times more points in relation to his ice time than he did last season.Why has he enjoyed such a significant jump in production? The first clue lies within his shooting percentage, which is roughly five per cent higher this season than his career average. And though that means he’s not likely to repeat such a high goal-scoring rate next season, it does not mean he’ll stop scoring any time soon. A regression to the mean is almost always unavoidable in the NHL, but there’s no guarantee on the time frame in which it will happen. Plenty of players have finished a season with a much higher shooting percentage than they’ve had in previous years.The second clue comes from Shaw’s playing style, which is a combination of fearlessness, work ethic and an underrated skill set.Shaw doesn’t take a shift off — he doesn’t even take part of a shift off. And while we can’t measure the actual effort output from individual players, we can certainly measure the results. In Shaw’s case, the results have been incredible. During his shifts this season, the Canadiens have scored almost 64 per cent of the goals and, more impressively, more than 69 per cent of the high-danger goals.The other boon Shaw provides to the team is that he tends to make a significant positive impact on his linemates, no matter where he’s slotted in the lineup, which speaks to his versatility.We’ve already explored Shaw’s impact when playing with Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi. Since then, it’s been abundantly clear that Shaw has become a very useful tool for head coach Claude Julien when a line is in need of a kickstart, as was the case against the Red Wings on Tuesday.Pro-rated to 82 games, Shaw is on pace for a 60-point season and — despite missing a fair amount of time with an injury — he is still on pace to smash his previous career highs. He’s also a key part of the very important depth the Canadiens rely upon to frustrate opposing coaches as they attempt to formulate a game plan to stop three lines that are capable of scoring.In a season that has featured Tomas Tatar’s return to form, Max Domi’s offensive surge, Jonathan Drouin’s uptick in production, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s fantastic rookie campaign, Jeff Petry’s reliable scoring, Carey Price’s great play and so many other interesting storylines, Shaw’s play has gone largely unnoticed.But even if he hadn’t scored a hat-trick in the most recent game, he’d still be worthy of praise because of his consistently high level of play. And I suspect his teammates wouldn’t hesitate to agree with that notion.Marc Dumont is an analyst and editor for The Athletic Montreal.(All statistics are via Natural Stat Trick and 5-on-5 unless otherwise specified.)Related