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Stu Cowan: Canadiens’ Andrew Shaw still has his blue-collar blood

Andrew Shaw #65 of the Montreal Canadiens shoots the puck towards goaltender Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 1, 2018.

Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images

EDMONTON — No one will ever question Andrew Shaw’s work ethic, but many will question the six-year, US$23.4-million contract he received from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks two years ago.

“I think I’ve earned what I got and I’m going to keep earning it and play that contract out and play it to the best ability I can,” Shaw said after the Canadiens practised Monday at Rogers Place ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). “If people think I’m overpaid, at least I know myself that I’m competing and working hard and giving everything I have.”

It has been a tough journey for Shaw since he suffered a concussion and a knee injury last season that required surgery when he checked the Dallas Stars’ Greg Pateryn during a game at the Bell Centre on March 13. Shaw wasn’t supposed to be ready for the start of this season, but that work ethic of his put him in the lineup opening night in Toronto. However, he still wasn’t himself — and it showed.

Shaw played four games before missing the next two with the flu. He returned to play three games before coach Claude Julien made him a healthy scratch for two games, asking Shaw to work hard in practice to regain the half step he seemed to have lost. Shaw has definitely regained that half step now with three goals in the last two games, including two in a 5-4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night at the Bell Centre when he was named the first star.

It’s hard not to like Shaw if you spend any time around him, and his teammates absolutely love him. Despite his multimillion-dollar contract, Shaw remains the blue-collar kid from Belleville, Ont. His father, Doug, ran a construction company and his mother, Darlene, was a bookkeeper for a trucking company. Doug coached all three of his sons — Andrew, Josh and Jason — in hockey when they were growing up and daughter Alexandria was a figure skater.

“My work ethic comes from both my parents,” Shaw said. “They had four kids and not a heavy income as a family. Dad working six or seven days a week and mom working five days a week and then driving us from arena to arena, city to city, up and down the 401. I didn’t feel like I was spoiled as a kid with cool gadgets and nice clothes. I was spoiled from time spent with my family and how hard they worked for us so we got to enjoy being kids and have that experience of playing hockey.”

Shaw met his future wife, Chaunette Boulerice, at high school in Belleville. They got married last year and their first child — daughter Andy — was born five months ago. Shaw said his wife is his rock.

“She’s pushed me through everything,” he said. “Making sure I was fed right, telling me how much I’ve succeeded so far in life and how I can’t get down on myself. She’s been great. My family was there for me, my teammates and coaching staff. Marc (Bergevin) has been a huge part of it as well.”

One of the things that makes Shaw valuable is the fact he can play on all four lines, kill penalties and also play on the power play. Julien now has Shaw playing on a line with the team’s two most skilled players — Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin — and he has fit in very well.

“He’s the one that’s going in there, recovering a lot of the pucks,” Julien said about Shaw. “He’s doing the stuff that that line needs to have in order to be successful. You can’t just have three playmakers or just guys that are going to play that high-finesse game. You need somebody that’s going to get his nose dirty in areas where he excels. I think that’s Shawsy right now. He’s going to the right places and he’s getting rewarded for it.”

Shaw looked like a little kid after Saturday’s first-star performance while wearing the Game of Thrones cape that is presented to the Canadiens’ player of the game in the dressing room. His smile was priceless.

“I look at it as it was one game,” he said. “I feel I’ve had a pretty good few last few games, but I just got to maintain that and be consistent. Being consistent in the NHL is one of the best attributes you can have.”

Shaw’s blue-collar blood is what has gotten him back to this point after a tough off-season with more doctor appointments than he wants to remember.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “Obviously, there were a lot of downs — but there were ups, too. Getting on the ice for the first time just sparks that love and that drive and that fire in your gut about how much you love the game. But it was tough.

“Thankfully, I have good people around me.”

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