MONTREAL — Here’s how Shea Weber characterized a play that saw him score by one-timing a puck at full force after it lobbed its way back to his stick off a first shot that hit Los Angeles Kings defenceman Matt Roy in front of goaltender Jonathan Quick:
“(You) get lucky once in a while, I guess,” he said.
It’s fair to say it was lucky the puck caromed off Roy and found Weber’s wheelhouse after travelling to a height of 15 feet—and a distance of roughly 25 feet. But it was anything but lucky that Weber was able to slap it out of the air for what turned out to be the 100th power-play goal of his illustrious career.
Here’s something else that had little to do with luck: Weber, paired with Ben Chiarot on the evening, held the Kings’ best line of Tyler Toffoli, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter to zero quality scoring chances at 5-on-5.
Sure, those guys got a couple while other Canadiens players were on the ice, but none of them came against Weber and Chiarot.
It’s pretty much the biggest reason the Canadiens skated away from Saturday’s game with a 3-2 win and two more valuable points in the bank—improving their record to 9-5-3.
Weber also made another valuable contribution in scoring one more (power-play) goal to bring his total on the season to five.
Through 17 games, he now has 13 points. It’s something the Canadiens’ captain is certainly proud of.
But Weber said after Saturday’s game that he’s most pleased about the progress he’s been steadily making on the defensive end, where the Canadiens need him most.
"Since I’ve come into the league, I’ve taken a lot of pride in shutting guys down,” said the 34-year-old veteran of 14 NHL seasons. "Especially top guys in the league.”
It’s a part of the game Weber struggled with considerably through Montreal’s first six contests of the season. He had been on the ice for seven of the 15 goals the team had allowed at even strength and 14 of the 23 Montreal had allowed on the whole. To say he was frustrated about that would be understating it.
"It’s just like anything when things snowball in a direction, when things aren’t going well. You end up trying to do more (than you should),” he said.
"You try harder and it just makes it worse, I guess. You’re just trying to do more and it ends up going in the wrong direction.”
And then the tide turns as it has over the last few weeks.
Weber was on the ice for 60 per cent of the goals the Canadiens had allowed through six games, but he’s only been on the ice for 40 per cent of them over the last 11 games.
"Things start clicking, and then you start building off of that and it snowballs in the other direction,” Weber explained. "Things start to naturally fit in their place.”
Like a puck landing on your stick right as you’re following through with one of the NHL’s most dangerous shots.
It was only natural that Weber’s 100th power-play goal would come in this fashion. Just like it was on the one-timer that gave him his 101st, which was the 208th goal of his career—putting him in a tie with former Canadiens legend Larry Robinson for the 19th-most goals in league history by a defenceman.
"When he winds up to take a slapshot, the Red Sea parts,” said Chiarot, who took great delight in watching Weber do what he does best.
But you know what the six-foot-three, 225-pounder enjoyed even more?
"It’s so much fun playing beside him,” Chiarot said.
"He moves the puck so efficiently, and he’s been doing it for so long. He knows where the puck needs to go. There’s very few hiccups or turnovers; it’s on his stick, and it’s to our forward, and we’re out of the zone pretty quickly. He’s really predictable for a partner to read off.”
When Weber’s doing it right, that’s what he does for whomever he lines up with.
When Weber’s doing it with Chiarot—like he did against Los Angeles, and like he did earlier this week in a virtuoso shutdown performance against Boston’s remarkable line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak—there’s a ripple effect throughout Montreal’s defensive corps.
On this night, it allowed Brett Kulak and Cale Fleury, who have 179 games of NHL experience between them, to play the majority of their shifts against third- and fourth-liners. It also allowed Jeff Petry, who leads the Canadiens in average ice-time, to breathe a little easier against the Kings.
"I think just getting to play against the second and third lines, you have a bit more leeway to play offence,” said regular Weber partner Victor Mete, who skated on a pair with Petry on Saturday. "It’s a big benefit.”
The Canadiens are benefiting from just about everything Weber’s doing now.
There were some rough patches last season after he came back towards the end of November from rehabbing off-season surgeries to both of his legs, just as there were some tough times for him at this start of the 2019-20 campaign. But his game is going in the right direction.
That’s boils down to Weber’s natural ability, his tireless work ethic and his focus much more than it does luck.
Those are the things that netted him that incredible goal that opened the scoring on Saturday.
"As soon as it got blocked I (knew I) was shooting it,” Weber said.
"I wanted to make it… I just wanted to get some shots through at the start, and then hopefully the rest of the stuff could open up for the power play. Obviously the first one got blocked and I didn’t expect it to bounce so high, but I knew it was coming back in my direction and I was like, ‘I’m just shooting it again.’”
"Obviously, I was able to time it pretty well.”