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Canadiens Analysis

How Lane Hutson’s Chaotic Approach Benefits The Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens Lane Hutson

Montreal Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson certainly enjoyed a very encouraging start to his NHL career.

With points in back-to-back games, the creative blueliner has quickly erased many of the concerns held by fans and analysts alike.

Those concerns were not unfounded, mind you. Yes, much of the pre-emptive criticism sent Hutson’s way has been powered by empty rhetoric and an outdated approach to hockey, but despite his dominance in the NCAA, there were a few legitimate issues at play.

Answering Questions

For example, some were concerned Hutson would no longer be able to walk the blueline with the greatest of ease. I’ll admit, I was among them. Not that I doubted Hutson’s skill set, but it was, after all, his bread and butter from a production standpoint with Boston University.

Without the extra time and space afforded to him in the NCAA, there were chances one of Hutson’s greatest strengths could be mitigated significantly.

I assumed it would take a little while for Hutson to feel comfortable enough to attempt a blueline shimmy.

It didn’t take long for me to realize it wouldn’t be an issue.

From his very first shift, Hutson displayed the type of high-quality decision-making and impressive mobility that was apparent on any given night in the NCAA.

There was one play in particular that really drove the point home, and it happened to be the final goal scored by a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 2023-24.

It was rather fitting, as Hutson’s strong play resulted in a goal from the only player in the lineup younger than him: Juraj Slafkovsky.

 

Organized Chaos

To get a better idea of how effective his blueline shimmy can be, we need to take a closer at the impact of his dekes, jukes, and overall fluidity in the offensive zone.

I’ve used the term organized chaos in the past, though never to describe anything related to the Montreal Canadiens. The chaos part is common in Montreal, but you’d be hard-pressed to suggest it was anything more than a result of broken plays.

That’s no longer the case now that Hutson is the mix.

The first thing we notice is that Hutson forces opposing players to re-adjust their positions on the ice ad nauseam.

In the clip posted above, Hutson moves the puck well over a dozen times before he finally takes a shot. This gives Slafkovsky plenty of time to settle into a high-danger scoring area near the crease, but more importantly, it sows the seeds of chaos in the offensive zone.

If we break the play down into frames, we get a clearer view of what Hutson is trying to do.

David Perron was the Red Wings forward tasked with pressuring Hutson. He wisely backs off, as he understands the young player can drive to the net on a whim, as he did when he registered his first point in the NHL during just his second shift.

But by trying to limit how much ice Hutson has access to down low, Perron seals his own fate.

From the very get-go, he is already one step behind the 20-year-old defenceman. Hutson was already shifting to his right by the time Perron was halfway into his initial adjustment.

You’ll also note Red Wings goaltender James Reimer is dealing with a less-than-ideal situation when it comes to tracking the puck.

montreal canadiens hutson

 

The key to Hutson’s chaotic magic is adding layer upon layer of adjustments to the mix.

Every time he moves with the puck, five opposing players have to recalculate their approach, not to mention the opposing goaltender has no choice but to reset.

As you see in the frame below, by the time Hutson is heading back to his left, Perron is hardly midway through his second adjustment.

montreal canadiens hutson

 

By the third and fourth deke, Perron has had enough.

He realizes he’s being bag-skated by a defenceman who has spent less time in the NHL than he has spent in a penalty box in any given season.

At that exact moment, Hutson has already won the battle.

There is much more traffic between himself and the goal, while every member of the Red Wings has been pulled out of their original positions.

montreal canadiens hutson

Goalie Impact

What’s more, Reimer has had to reset half a dozen times. As you can see in the frame above, he’s peering over Slafkovsky’s left shoulder as Hutson prepares to shoot.

But if we fast-forward a few frames and change the angle, we can see that Reimer is well out of position by the time the puck nears the crease, as he is in the process of shifting to his right.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

Remember, a moving goaltender is a vulnerable goaltender.

And that’s what Hutson does best.

He takes mundane situations and adds talent, a spoonful of deception, and a generous heaping of mayhem while maintaining control of the play as the conductor of the chaotic orchestra.