MONTREAL - Being dealt from the Blackhawks to the Canadiens over the summer brought about many changes for Andrew Shaw.
After an up-and-down first half of the season in Montreal, over the last few weeks the fiery forward has demonstrated that he'll be a key element to the Habs' success down the stretch and into the postseason.
Shaw's play as of late has illustrated exactly why Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was so disappointed to see him leave for Quebec in July.
A couple of days after facing his former team for the second time, the 25-year-old reflected on the trade that sent him to Montreal, confirming that going up against his former teammates after having spent the last five seasons in Chicago wasn't surprisingly easier than he expected.
"It was probably harder on them - I told a few of them to keep their head up," cracked Shaw, who still has plenty of friends in the Hawks' room. "I still talk to some guys here and there, but schedules are tough. They're off when we're playing and vice-versa. We shoot texts back and forth, but once hockey starts, we focus on hockey. Everything else goes away."
Shaw didn't need much time to start feeling at home with his new hockey family this season, and the same is also true of his experience acclimating away from the rink. After living in the heart of the action in the third-largest city in the United States for the first five years of his career, the Belleville, ON native opted for a change of pace when he set up shop in Quebec just before the season began.
"Living on the South Shore is nice. It gets me away from the city. It's quieter, which is nice when you get away from the rink. You can wind down and relax. When I was in Chicago, I lived downtown. I got my big city living in. I moved here and I'm getting married this summer, so I figured if I wanted to start a family, I might as well do it in the suburbs," explained Shaw, who proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Chaunette, a few weeks after being acquired by the Canadiens.
It's no secret that playing in Montreal comes with some added attention away from the rink, but far from shying away from the heat, Shaw and his fiancée have embraced everything about their new hockey-mad market. In fact, the two-time Stanley Cup champ decided to sign a six-year contract with the Canadiens before even suiting up for a single game.
With the ink still wet on the long-term deal, the young couple wasted little time integrating themselves into their new surroundings to begin living like locals.
"Chaunette likes it here. She's taking some French lessons. What she learns, she practices on me and tries to help me out as well. She loves the fashion, the architecture. We visited the Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal a few months ago and it's so gorgeous. All of the buildings are amazing just to look at," said Shaw, who still follows his favorite sports teams from his time in Chicago, including his beloved Cubs.
"There are also lots of good places to eat, which is a positive because I love trying out new restaurants and new food," added Shaw. "I'm more of a foodie than she is. I'm the kind of guy who likes to try the kind of stuff that you don't usually order."
While they have no problem waiting to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet around their South Shore home, the Shaws didn't move to Montreal solo. Their two dogs, Charlie and Bailey, have slipped seamlessly into life with a little more land.
"We lived in a townhouse in Chicago. We didn't have a yard, so we used to go to the park with them all the time. They love being outside and playing catch. They're outdoor dogs," said Shaw. "They love it. Every time I come home from the rink, they seem to always want to go for a walk."
Much like Charlie and Bailey, who are never lacking in enthusiasm when let loose outdoors, their master also seemingly has an endless supply of energy at his disposal. A sparkplug for the Canadiens throughout the regular season, Shaw - who is back on track after having missed 14 games earlier this year with a concussion - has shown a knack for upping his game when the stakes are at their highest, having racked up 16 goals and 35 points in 67 career postseason games to date. The two-time Cup champ knows exactly what it will take if he wants to add a third ring to his growing collection.
"I can't change my game. I have to go out there and work, compete and do what I can to create some space for my teammates," concluded Shaw, who hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. "I wasn't playing my best hockey [earlier this year] and I wasn't playing my game that made me successful: hard work and gritty play. It's different now."
With just a few games left on the regular season schedule, the gritty forward won't have to wait much longer to put his clutch playoff performances on display. And if fall and winter were enough to make Shaw fall in love with Montreal, just wait until he sees what the city is like in the spring…