Ahh, my old nemesis; the dump and chase. Doesn’t it seem like a give-up play? "Hey, other team, here’s the puck!" Why would you ever willingly give up the puck? Wouldn’t it be easier to drop a pass back to a defensemen and start the breakout over again? Now before you get all Goon on me and smash my face in, I get it - it’s good against a trapping defense or high defensemen if you have aggressive, turnover-causing forwards. Perhaps my time spend watching Gregory Campbell repeatedly dump the puck in with a near zero percent retrieval rate has scarred me from ever enjoying a good dump and chase.
With that in mind, this week’s Bruins Play of the Year of the Week So Far ™ will either be "he got a lucky bounce" or "see? Just like they planned it".
The Bruins played Ottawa in a very entertaining tilt in the Canadian Tire Centre on 1/9/2016, with the Bruins losing 2 to 1 in OT (thanks loser point!). This play is a great example as to why I love team sports so much; not only does it take one great individual effort, it also requires several people to be on the same page at the same time.
It stats off, 8 minutes into the first period, with Ryan Spooner shooting the puck to the left of Craig Anderson in net. As the puck careens into the corner, Matt Beleskey, Boston's shiny new toy, actually beats the speedy Erik Karlsson, gets inside position, and throws a hip check on Milan Michalek.
The puck then goes back towards Anderson and the net where Spooner, the original perpetrator, pins the puck and Fredrik Claesson (#45) against the boards. Karlsson, the two-time Norris trophy winner, goes down to retrieve the puck. Karlsson and Claesson get even more help below the net, as Ottawa forward Mika Zibanejad swings by. This leaves four Senators below the goal line.
Does that even sound remotely logical? Four players from one team, all below the net? Last time I checked, it's pretty damn hard to score or defend from behind the net. As a player in that scenario, at some point, there's too many cooks in the kitchen, while an angry Italian woman is yelling obscenities at the lack of wait staff.
The fifth Senator, Mike Hoffman (far right), anticipates that his teammates will get the biscuit and cheats up the boards for the outlet pass; only, the pass never comes.
Warning: Arrows. So. Many. Arrows. (Bruins in Blue, Senators in Red)
Eriksson makes the right read, as he knows Spooner will attempt to get the puck off the boards, and goes to the front of the net. By putting himself in this position, he can both attack and defend.
If a loose puck pops out front? Scoring chance.
If it scoots to the right corner? Time to forecheck, covering the cross-ice pass.
If the puck goes back left? Cover the center ice breakout, as Beleskey is already on the left boards.
And, lastly, if the puck goes everyone, himself included? Well, he's got a ten foot headstart.
Ryan Spooner makes a heads-up play that you wouldn't expect him to make, he of 100 NHL games played. He doesn't look like a kid who eats a bunch of sardines or wheat germ (who knows, maybe he's a Dr. Oz aficionado like my dear mother), but his brain synapses were on point here. What might have initially been seen as deflected puck was actually kicked by Spooner, putting the puck out in front to an open Loui Eriksson.
Loui doesn't score, but that's not the point. This is a "wow" play - the opportunity was there, and it took every Bruins forward working in harmony and a little puck luck to make it happen. Man, hockey is hard.
And that's all for the second iteration of the Bruins Play of the Year of the Week So Far ™.
Again, just don't tell me final score. I'm going to have to start picking games where they actually win.