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Canadiens attest to Shea Weber's power

When defending All-Star hardest shot champion winds up, teammates stay out of the way

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- The parallel was presented to Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw, and at first he was in full agreement.

Shaw was talking about how his teammate, defenseman Shea Weber, has told his forwards not to bother screening the goaltender when he unleashes his booming slap shot and set themselves up for a rebound instead.

Considering he has a teammate, forward Brendan Gallagher, who has a broken hand from being hit by a Weber slap shot in front of the net, it appears to be sound advice.

"He personally tells you that if you see him winding up, just pull to the side," Shaw said. "I mean, you see his shot can beat a goalie clean. We've seen it time and time again."

So when Shaw was told it's almost like a superhero who is afraid of hurting innocent people because he can't control his superpowers, like in the X-Men, for example, he initially agreed.

Video: MTL@NJD: Weber rips blistering one-timer for PPG

"Yeah, I think so," Shaw said at first. Then he said, "Well, no, because he can control it. He controls the speed, he controls the power, he controls the accuracy."

In the X-Men comics, mutants would attend Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in order to learn to control their powers and, eventually, perhaps become X-Men.

So has Weber essentially graduated and become part of the X-Men?

"That's exactly what it is," Shaw said.

This is how the Canadiens, and more importantly their opponents, talk about Weber's slap shot, a superpower he will be unleashing again Saturday when he looks to defend his title in the Oscar Mayer NHL Hardest Shot competition at the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Staples Center in Los Angeles (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Weber has won the competition the past two years, at 108.5 mph in 2015 and 108.1 mph a year ago, the second- and third-hardest shots recorded in the competition after the 108.8 mph of Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in 2012.

Video: NHL Skills: Weber dazzles crowd during Hardest Shot

Weber (6-foot-4, 232 pounds), as humble as they come, thinks it is the flex on his stick that gives him an advantage during the hardest shot competition, where you skate up to a puck sitting in the slot to wire it on net, a situation that practically never happens in a game.

"I use a really stiff stick," Weber said. "A guy like [Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin] Byfuglien, who shoots the puck really hard and really well, I think he uses a flimsier stick than I do, so in different situations he can get a different shot off and one straight shot [from him] is maybe not as hard as most people would think, because he does shoot really hard."

Of course, Weber's shot is far more valuable to the Canadiens in games. Entering their home game against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SNE, RDS, SNW, NHL.TV), he has used it to score 11 goals this season, including nine on the power play, first among NHL defensemen.

Video: MTL@TBL: Weber buries one-timer for pretty PPG

But for Canadiens forwards it is a perilous act when Weber is winding up from the blue line, as Gallagher learned the hard way when he was struck in the left hand by a Weber slap shot when battling with Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn for position in the slot Jan. 4.

Gallagher broke his hand and is expected to be out at least another five weeks, but he says it could have been worse.

"I think he fanned on it," Gallagher said. "It was a knucklepuck and I think he fanned on it. It was only 98 (mph). I don't want to know what my hand would have looked like if he actually got a hold of it."

Much like Shaw, Gallagher also has devised a system for avoiding Weber's blistering shots in front of the opposing net. Somewhat like a batter in baseball reading a pitcher's arm angle, Gallagher has learned to anticipate where Weber will shoot and place himself appropriately so he doesn't get drilled.

"As the year was going on I was getting pretty good at reading where he was shooting and going to the other side, being able to predict it just by the way he was lining up," Gallagher said. "I read one wrong. And it got me."

Weber's shot has been his calling card for most of his hockey-playing life, back to his days growing up in Sicamous, British Columbia, when he would spend hours honing it using a wood stick, which probably explains his preference for stiffer sticks to this day.

"I loved shooting when I was younger," he said. "It was just something that I always wanted to work on, whether it was before practice, whether it was off the ice. I had a pretty good shot for my size even when I was younger. I wouldn't say I could label it like I can now, but I could raise it and get it up off the ice. Some kids were still slicing the puck, just kind of chopping at it to get it up off the ice."

When he was off the ice, Weber practiced his shot at home. But any thought of using the actual house as a backdrop quickly was erased by his father, James, so Weber had to work extra hard to get his practice in.

"My dad made me go beside the house so if I missed the net I had to go chase the pucks," Weber said. "No, if I hit the garage, I was running. Dad was coming out and I was running."

These days it's opposing defensemen, goaltenders and even his teammates sent running when Weber shoots the puck. They would all do well to simply heed his advice.

Just get out of the way.

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