All lips are sealed on Shaw’s alleged biting incident in Game 1

SHARE All lips are sealed on Shaw’s alleged biting incident in Game 1

TAMPA, Fla. – Nobody was biting. Not Victor Hedman, who was the purported bitee. Not his Lightning teammates, who were aware of reports that a healthy chomp had been perpetrated on one of their own.

Nobody would say Andrew Shaw was a cad of a hockey player, even though they had a pretty good idea that the Blackhawks’ agitator had gone teeth first into Hedman’s midsection in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Shaw had come to the defense of Patrick Kane, whom Hedman had slammed into the boards after Kane had tried to dig the puck out of Ben Bishop’s goalie glove Wednesday night.

So, Shaw is Public Enemy No. 1 in Tampa, right?

“(He’s) a player that you want on your team,’’ Hedman, a defenseman, said Friday. “You want a player like that who can get under people’s skin. He’s a great player. He’s a big presence in front of the net. He’s tough to play against. I really like players who play the style he does.’’

You, sir, are a forgiving soul. Shaw is an irritant, a blister between two toes, a telemarketer on skates. The Hawks love him for his big bag of annoying tricks. An opponent should not.

“He’s a great player,’’ Hedman said. “He stuck up for Kane. I stood up for my goalie. That’s how things should be on the ice.’’

Is there any Lightning player who believes Shaw is in line for payback, perhaps in Game 2 Saturday night?

“He plays hard,’’ center Alex Killorn said. “He’s kind of like a (Brendan) Gallagher in Montreal. They have great work ethics. They work hard. You know you’re going to get the best from them every shift.’’

Don’t the Lightning want to do unspeakable things to Mr. Shaw? Wouldn’t that be the logical reaction upon hearing that he had allegedly bitten into Hedman as if he were a Swedish meatball?

“I think that’s what he wants,’’ Killorn said. “We don’t want to give him what he wants. I think he wants to get under our skin. It doesn’t really affect me. It doesn’t affect anyone else, so keep letting him run around.’’

OK, now we’re on to something. The Lightning don’t want Shaw to think he has gotten inside their heads. By not acknowledging his antics, they are letting him know he’s nothing more than a gnat. They are, in essence, putting their fingers in their ears and humming.

I asked Hedman to show me where Shaw had allegedly bitten him, but he declined.

“No, I like to have a shirt on,’’ he said, smiling.

On the Tampa Bay bench after the Game 1 scrum, a TV camera caught Hedman lifting his sweater for a trainer to see and telling a smiling Brenden Morrow, “He bit me.’’

The NHL did not take any action against Shaw. He would not address whether he had chewed on Hedman, saying only: “He’s one of their best players. He’s a highly skilled, big, strong defenseman with a lot of speed, and he went after one of our better players.’’

This has been Shaw’s style of play since he was a kid. Imagine a nine-year-old drawing penalties, creating mayhem in front of the net and making opponents want to crush their juice boxes over his head. That was Shaw in Belleville, Ontario.

“My dad tried to always get me away from it,’’ he said. “He wanted me to just play hockey, but that was always a part of my game. Being a smaller guy, you’ve got to do what it takes to find a place and stick to it.’’

Shaw had 20 goals last season and 15 this season, so he’s not just a corrosive substance. It’s easy to lose sight of that, and opponents sometimes do while trying to kill him.

Good luck in trying to figure out what’s appropriate behavior in the NHL and what isn’t. Just know that biting isn’t necessarily on the wrong side of the law.

“There’s a fine line with a lot of things that come along with hockey,’’ Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison said. “Some guys tend to ride the line, sometimes they go over it. Some guys stay on the other side of the line. That’s what obviously separates him from other people as, you say, an agitator. He seems to kind of ride that line.’’

Shaw predicted a long series, so who knows what might be on the menu for later? Leg of Lightning? Balsamic Glazed Blackhawk Wing?

I asked Hedman if he had been bitten before.

“I’m sure I have when I was a kid,’’ he said.

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