MONTREAL—Shea Weber goes about his business quietly.
Canadiens fans got their first glimpse of the six-foot-four defenceman in a Habs sweater on Thursday night. He played more than 25 minutes and registered seven of the team’s 32 shots in a 6-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Stable, reliable, menacing and effective, Weber came as advertised.
If you were looking for something outlandish or exhilarating in his play, he’d have surely let you down in that department.
But Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was far from disappointed with what he saw from Weber.
“That was his first game and it’s almost like a crash course for him because we have a certain way that we want to play the game,” said Therrien. “But you could just feel his presence on the ice. He’s doing the right play at the right time; the percentage play at the right time and that’s leadership as far as we’re concerned.”
It was on a percentage play that Weber scored Montreal’s fourth goal of the game. He didn’t wind up to unleash that deadly slapshot of his. He saw an open lane from 60 feet out and sifted a wristshot in there that snuck through Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
“It was a change-up,” Weber said with a laugh after the game. “I saw [Toronto Blue Jays pitcher] Marco Estrada was pitching tonight so I threw a change-up.”
Weber’s teammates combined for highlight-reel goals in this one. Newcomer Andrew Shaw scored two, big Michael McCarron ripped a shot through Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly for one, and Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk combined on what could easily be considered the nicest marker of the team’s exhibition schedule, which came to a close Thursday night. To cap it all off, Finnish forward Artturi Lehkonen rifled a wristshot into the shelf of the net to.
The fans at the Bell Centre were even treated to 2016 first-overall pick Auston Matthews’ first goal—a seeing-eye shot on the power play that flew by Weber’s big frame and beat goaltender Carey Price on the short side. It was a beauty.
Speaking of Price, he made his first start in a Canadiens sweater in 315 days after missing 70 games due to injury last season.
He made a stop on Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in the second period, stretching across his crease to put his blocker on what looked like a sure goal, that had the fans jumping out of their seats and chanting his name.
Weber’s game played out in the background of it all.
“I think he showcased really everything that he’s about [Thursday] with his shot and some big hits he made and just winning battles in the corners,” said Nathan Beaulieu, who was paired with Weber for most of the night.
The simplicity of Weber’s game is what made Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin pull the trigger on the summer trade sent edge-of-your-seat, boisterous defenceman P.K. Subban to Nashville.
“Every coach dreams of having a big defenceman who’s simple and efficient,” said Beaulieu. “He’s super easy to play with.”
To call him predictable is not to say that Weber was unnoticeable in his Canadiens debut.
If there was one play the big man made that attracted everyone’s attention, it was a first-period hit at the offensive blue line. Weber stepped up and flattened Leafs forward Leo Komarov.
You could also feel the building come to a sudden hush in the third period as Weber wound up for a violent slapshot that found its way to Andersen’s net and audibly bounced off of the netminder’s equipment.
But for most of the night, Weber just went about his quiet, cool way.
“Just trying to get accustomed to all my new teammates,” Weber said when asked about his main point of focus for the night.
That process may have been accelerated by Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry sustaining a lower-body injury in the first period of the game.
As a result, Weber played shifts with Beaulieu, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin throughout the second and third periods.
He’ll have another week to get acclimated before the Canadiens open their season in Buffalo next Thursday. It’s time he’ll use to just “shore up some things in front of [Price],” he said.
But Weber doesn’t have much work to do.
“He’s a veteran; he knows the game, he’s played it,” said Shaw. “He’s been through ups and downs, he knows what it takes to win, and he’s a great leader as well.”
If you were watching closely on Thursday night, Weber displayed all of that.