MONTREAL - Satisfaction. Exhaustion. Joy. Those are all words that come to mind when Andrew Shaw thinks about his Stanley Cup triumphs with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015.
A few years ago, the NHL's playoff slogan was "No Words", in reference to those who have previously hoisted the Cup being left speechless after claiming hockey's top prize. That's just how Shaw felt himself - apart from what he admits were a few expletives that came out of his mouth amidst the raw emotion of winning it for the first time.
"It's hard to describe. It's a dream come true, it's joy, it's exhaustion. You're just happy you gave everything you had and you were successful. It's simply satisfaction," relayed the 25-year-old Belleville, ON native. "As a kid in Canada, I grew up loving hockey, watching it and playing street hockey with my friends. It's the moment you've worked for your entire life; the moment you've always dreamed about, like every kid."
Two months, four rounds, and 16 wins. Hoisting the Stanley Cup once in a career is incredibly difficult. Doing it twice in the first five years is even tougher.
"You have to take the playoffs one step at a time. The first round is two weeks long. Either you move on or you're done. Knowing that, I'm always pushing myself to work harder, compete, and do everything I have to do to win. I'm going to give everything I have during those two weeks. If we win, we advance. It's satisfying, but you have to want more. You start again with another two weeks ahead of you and then you give a little bit more," mentioned Shaw, who dished out 147 hits during the 2016-17 campaign, leading all Canadiens forwards in that department.
According to Shaw, kicking off a playoff run looking at the full extent of the road ahead isn't the way to go. Instead, taking things "one game at a time" should be a top priority.
"You don't want to tell yourself, 'I have to overcome all of this for two months.' No, you take the first two weeks, and if you win, you want more. The further you go, the more you believe and you build on it. You sense that you're getting closer and closer to the Cup and your desire increases. You get hungry. So you could be in pain, or exhausted both physically and mentally, but the ultimate goal is to hoist the Cup. It helps to feed the body and the mind," prescribed Shaw.
That philosophy helped the Blackhawks win their two Stanley Cups while Shaw was still calling the Windy City home. Joel Quenneville's club overcame some big-time obstacles during both runs.
In 2013, they faced a 3-1 second-round series deficit to the Detroit Red Wings. Shaw says nearly everybody counted them out. Everyone outside the Hawks' dressing room, that is.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy. We knew that we had to pull together and work. You can't think about tomorrow or the next game. We managed to cut the deficit in the series to 3-2. Then during Game 6 in Detroit, we focused on playing as a team, being solid, competing, and giving everything we had," recalled the gritty forward.
"We knew we were on the cusp of being knocked out, but we also knew that we just had to work to get out of it. We won that game. During Game 7, the momentum changed. It was in our favor and we just rode the wave all the way to the end. We won in overtime on a big goal by [Brent] Seabrook. At that moment, we knew we had the team that could win it. We were all dedicated," added Shaw.
The Blackhawks experienced a similar situation two years later, trailing the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the Western Conference final. Three games went to overtime in that series (two ending in wins for the Blackhawks and one for the Ducks), including one that went to triple-OT. Once again, they just took things one step at a time.
"We got a big win in Game 6, and then we went to Anaheim with the momentum in our favor. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, and then we dominated Game 7. I think when you overcome things as a team, it shows the kind of character you have and the extent to which all of the guys want to win," noted Shaw.
Those two big moments changed the course of Blackhawks playoff history. Wanting to win above all else was the secret to their eventual success.
"You have to believe that you have the team to win. Confidence and arrogance, those are two important factors, but it's all about knowing who wants to win more. That's why the playoffs are so fun to watch. An eighth-place team can easily win the Cup if the whole team competes and works," added Shaw, who boasts 69 games of playoff experience following Friday's Game 2 win over the Rangers.
Each of his Cup championships are forever etched in his memory. Shaw is proud of his accomplishments, but what really stands out about those victories is the teamwork involved to get there. He says he owes his two Stanley Cup rings to his teammates, and he'll never forget them.
"I'm happy that I pushed myself to be able to do it, but that's not what I remember. When I think back to it, I think the best part was being in the dressing room. Those are the guys you won with. Seeing the ice on their shoulders, knees, ankles, wrists - everywhere - all playoffs long," recalled Shaw.
"It's seeing the pain they had to endure to win that trophy, because you're drained emotionally, physically, and mentally. That's the kind of person and player I want to be, and that's the kind of player I want my future kids to be like - so that they'll be ready to give the extra effort and do what it takes to win. That's probably what I'll always remember from those two experiences. I hope I get to do it again," said Shaw.
If good things really do come in threes, Shaw might just be in luck.
"I think Montreal would be an incredible place to win the Cup. Passionate fans, the history of the team… this is the place to do it and I think we have the team to get there. We're going to work and compete," concluded Shaw. "It'll be a long journey, but in the end, winning is the most satisfying thing."