Last Friday night, Andrew Shaw chased a puck into the Florida Panthers’ zone in the last minute of play in the third period. Panthers goalie Jose Theodore was on the bench in favour of an extra attacker. Shaw got to the puck but fired wide of the open net.
He has been on target much of the time since he was called up from the Black Hawks’ American League affiliate in Rockford. In fact, he had scored in each of the previous four games.
He has become the talk of the town. For those of us who have seen him progress through the minor sports systems in Belleville, none of this comes as a surprise. Always rambunctious, Andrew brings a special quality to the game, and it has ignited the fans in Chicago. He plays a feisty game. It took all of three minutes for him to drop his gloves in his first NHL game in Philadelphia, much to the delight of the busload of fans who made the trip from Belleville to the game.
But he has continued to play well, earning the praise of broadcasters and hockey pundits everywhere.
One way to ascertain his position with the Hawks is to look at the number of minutes he has played in each game since he was called up from the minors. In his first game in Philadelphia, on the fifth of January, he played a little more than 12 minutes. Since that game, Coach Quenneville has increased his ice time significantly He has also seen duty short-handed, and on the power play. Almost unheard of for a rookie, let alone a mid-season call-up.
On the other hand, former Belleville Bull Shawn Matthias has gradually worked his way up the ladder to his current position with the Florida Panthers. He has eight goals and nine assists for 17 points, the most in his career in the NHL. There is still another game before the All-Star Break.
Matthias has also seen his ice time increase this season. In October, he averaged about 10 minutes per game. That has increased significantly under new Head Coach Kevin Dineen. Matthias sees action on the power play, as well as in short-handed situations. He parks his large frame in front of the opponent’s net on power plays, á la Phil Esposito.
For a rangy athlete, Matthias has surprising speed. When the opportunity arises, he will be there. In a recent game in Fort Lauderdale, he was penalized on a very questionable call while killing a penalty. He was hooked, and hauled to the ice. In the process, he attempted to clear the zone. The puck flipped over the glass, and Matthias had to serve a delay-of-game penalty. Not much justice there.
When the penalty had expired, he broke toward the opposition net. A nifty pass from Kopecky sent Matthias in alone, and he made no mistake, beating Rask in the Bruins’ net.
After the game, Matthias indicated his frustration with the loss. “We played hard from the start.” Boston had opened the scoring, and had held the Panthers in check for most of the first period. Near the end of the period, the Panthers’ Ed Jovanovski and the Bruins’ Daniel Paille dropped their gloves for a scrap. “Jovo stepped up and really got us going at that point in the game. We needed that.”
He also commented on the fact that they were playing the Stanley Cup Champions. “They’ve been killing teams this year. There was an intense atmosphere in the building. You could really feel it on the bench.”
Now in his fifth year with the Panthers, Matthias has stepped up to the plate off the ice. Last year, when I caught up with him here in the south, he was recovering from a broken ankle. But he did take the time to have his head shaved, raising almost $100,000 with his teammates for cancer. This year, he joined his teammates and grew a mustache for the “Movember” cancer awareness campaign. His effort was described as “greasy” by teammate Mike Weaver.
A couple of boys with Belleville roots, just playing the game.