One element of Shea Weber’s game has earned a bit of a reputation.
Slapping a puck 108.5 mph at last year’s NHL All-Star Skills Competition completed what felt like a formality to many of Weber’s NHL brethren. The Nashville Predators captain holds the keys to the game’s most powerful and feared slap shot, and for fellow All-Stars at Friday’s media availability, there was no need to hesitate before making their pick of who will take home the title in the Hardest Shot Competition.
“Yeah, he’s a bit of a lock for that one,” Calgary Flames d-man Mark Giordano said with a laugh.
“He’s probably going to take that one home, I think,” San Jose Sharks blueliner Brent Burns proclaimed.
A further investigation into what makes Weber the clear favorite in tomorrow’s most-popular Skills Competition event produced some interesting insight from two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
“I know he is really, really strong, but also I know that’s not all in having a hard shot,” Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators captain said. “His timing and his ability to move the puck at the right time, that’s what makes him have the shot that he has. Obviously, a lot of other things come into play too, but I think that’s the most important thing to have an especially hard shot.”
Weber has credited - on several occasions - his childhood habit of shooting pucks in the driveway for hours, even after skating most of the day, as the edge that first helped him develop such a fast and heavy shot. Years later, the 30-year-old’s slapper has become so “legendary” that a particular blast against the New York Rangers still sticks out in the mind of their captain, Ryan McDonagh.
“He had bullets scored against [former Rangers goaltender] Cam Talbot, and I remember Talbot saying that he couldn’t even tell where the puck was going because it was already in the net,” McDonagh said. “It’s pretty incredible when you hear something like that from a goalie about a guy’s shot. I’m pretty excited to see him firsthand and get that time to really wind up and let it go.”
Weber’s ability to quickly put a shot on net while under pressure is also a strategic advantage, according to the Rangers blueliner.
“I can remember a couple of goals he scored against us where you see it, it’s almost like a nothing play, the puck is just going out toward the blue line and yeah he’s there, but he just gets his shot off real quick,” McDonagh said. “It’s a quick slapper. It’s not like he needs a ton of space and time to get his shot off. It’s going at the blink of an eye, and it’s going just as hard as it would be if he was able to take the time that he’ll get tomorrow at the Skills Competition, with the time to wind up.”
There won’t be a goalie in the net tomorrow when Weber has the chance to top the fastest shot on record at the event: a 108.8 mph mark set by Boston Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara in 2012. That’s a good thing, says Minnesota Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk, who likes Weber’s chances to add a few more percentage points to the 108.5 mph he hit last year. The goaltender shook his head on Friday when he was asked about being on the other end of a rocket from the Preds d-man:
“It’s not a lot of fun,” Dubynk said. “People always ask me, outside friends and whatnot, they are always asking who has the hardest shot, and he’s always the guy that comes to mind. Weber is on a level where you need to be ready on an unscreened shot from the blue line.”
Not one to brag about his own abilities, Weber did mention he was looking forward to defending his title for hardest shot this weekend. He’s not the only one either. Word continues to spread of the captain’s defining element in his arsenal, and for McDonagh, Karlsson and thousands of Preds fans on Saturday, they can’t wait to see it again in person.