One of the bright spots for the Ottawa Senators this year has been the play of the so-called "Kid Line", made up of Curtis Lazar, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. They've been dynamite since Paul MacLean first put them together; the below goal is a great example of the high level of skill and in-game awareness that each possesses.
The play starts off innocently enough, with Mike Hoffman carrying the puck through the neutral zone after a Canucks attack had just been broken up at the Sens' blueline. At this point, it really doesn't seem like much of anything is going on. Ottawa's effectively got a 2 on 4 going:
Hoffman's being closed down via good gap control by Bieksa and a strong backcheck through the middle of the ice by the Canucks forward. He doesn't have much choice except to dump it in here but I like what he does by taking stock of Mark Stone on the far wing and wiring it around to the far side:
Critically, he dumps it in with enough velocity that Ryan Miller will have no play on it behind the net as you'll see in a second. So many dump-ins are ineffective because the player dumping the puck doesn't put enough zip behind it. The moment the opposition's goalie gets involved, it's a problem. In the next frame, you can see the outcome of that dump play. Also, take a quick peek at where Lazar is in the frame above: basically nowheresville. In about 2 seconds he's going to have the puck, though.
Miller is forced to stay in his net and all the Canucks are looking to the far side corner, tracking the puck as it comes along the boards. Hoffman's doing the same, but Mark Stone sure isn't! This picture is so blurry I feel like I'm a 9/11 truther here, but you can see Stone's clearly turned his head back to check out the situation behind him. This sure doesn't look like someone who's about to gather the puck on the sideboards and head behind the net with it. That's because he's not:
Stone skates right by the puck, clearly deliberately, leaving it for a now wide open Curtis Lazar. Lazar's check, number 15 in the earlier frames, had been heading towards the middle of the ice -- where Lazar would normally go if Stone picked up the puck on the sideboards as basically everyone expected him to do. Now, I'm not sure if Lazar calls for the dummy from Stone or if he does it all on his own after seeing Lazar coming towards the sideboards, but it's a hell of a play. The Canucks' left D bought the fake hook, line and sinker because he's gone to the corner to meet Stone. Even Kevin Bieksa, the defenseman in front of Miller, bought the fake for a second because you can see he's scrambling to get back to the front of the net after realizing what's really happening. Bieksa's supposed to be covering Mike Hoffman who's now freely floating through the middle of the ice. Lazar puts the puck on net and an unchecked Hoffman taps in a rebound. Voila.
What at first glance looks like a nothing play off a dump-in was actually some skilled kids making some high level plays. It all happened so smoothly, in fact, that I almost wonder if it wasn't a set play. Anyways, it was glorious and all the more reason MacLean just needs to let these guys go.
The whole thing, start to finish is below. Be sure to watch for the Stone head fake and his huge celebration:
Thanks for reading!