Shea Weber is best known for big hits and bigger slapshots. However, the ascension of not only Jeff Petry, but also Ben Chiarot and especially Brett Kulak, has allowed the captain to a assume a more under-the-radar role as the anchor of the Montreal Canadiens’ defence. On Wednesday night, as a tepid series boiled to life, Weber remained calm, cool, and collected when his team needed those qualities most.
With 41.8 seconds left and the Canadiens nursing a 4-3 advantage, Phillip Danault won a crucial defensive-zone faceoff back behind Carey Price’s net to a waiting Weber. In days gone by, Weber, known for a direct “route one” style of play, would have likely hammered the puck around the boards and out of the zone. Here though, a more mature, and perhaps more confident Weber begins to skate the puck out, moving around the other side of the net.
Weber’s actions force the Phildelphia Flyers into a defensive posture, and recognizing the amount of time and space that he had, the Canadiens defender easily fends off the Philadelphia forechecker and places a perfect breakout pass onto Danault’s tape for a zone exit.
Weber has little time to rest on his laurels, for the Flyers fire the puck right back into the zone, this time with a little more than 30 seconds remaining on the clock. Again, as first man back, the Habs’ captain has an opportunity to rifle the puck as hard as he can, either on his backhand or on his forehand. Instead, he feints both actions and braces his body for the onrushing opposition forechecker.
Claude Giroux goes for the puck and Weber’s bracing catches him off-guard, sending him to one knee. Now with body position, Weber can turn and gather the puck before either Sean Couturier on the back side or third-man-in Joel Farabee can reach it. The linchpin of the Montreal blue line shows remarkable deftness in sliding a soft pass away from the three orange shirts and into an area of ice occupied by Danault and Joel Armia.
Danault is too close to the action and misses the pass, but Armia is able to scoop up the loose puck. With four Flyers trapped below the goal line, Armia just has to beat Ivan Provorov to create a clear lane out of the zone, which he does with a quick pivot as the Flyers defenceman lunged at his stick. A quick pass to Danault and a neutral-zone scramble later, the puck is on its way to the Hart-less cage to seal the Montreal win.
It may not seem like much, but in these two instances, with the game on the line, Weber showed that he has a more well-rounded game than many have historically given him credit for. Whether this is a new development or something that’s always been there but gone unnoticed, it’s something that will benefit both Weber and the Canadiens this season and beyond.