Dale Weise is one of the more interesting fourth-line players in the league.
Usually, an NHL team's bottom-three is reserved for young players on their way up (ex: Michael Bournival), aging defensive specialists (ex: Manny Malhotra) or dedicated face-punchers (ex: George Parros). But Weise does not fit that mold.
The 26 year-old is in the prime of his career, doesn't play very good defense, and actually scores quite a bit for a depth winger. Here's a look at his HERO chart:
The chart tells us two things about Weise.
On the one hand, he is a possession anchor; one of the worst players in the league when it comes to on-ice shot differentials.
When he is on the ice (which is usually not very often), he and his teammates are in the bottom 20% across the NHL in terms of creating shots for and preventing shots against. Max Pacioretty is a 54.8% Corsi player away from Dale Weise, which is good even by first-line standards. When they play together, their possession drops to 46.7%, mediocre even for a fourth line.
On the other hand, Weise actually performs way above his pay grade when you only look at his personal scoring numbers and the amount of goals his team generates when he is on the ice. Playing with Desharnais and Pacioretty during a large chunk of the 2014-15 season helped him pad his stats, but even when away from 51 and 67, Weise finds his way to the scoresheet on an abnormally high frequency for someone who is supposed to be a checking-line winger.
So what gives?
Basically, Dale Weise is a bit of a cherry-picker.
Focus: Flying the zone off a defensive faceoff win
The best explanation I've come across for Weise's style of play is he has "a goalscorer's brain in a checker's body."
Scoring a ton of goals at the expense of playing sound defensive hockey isn't really in his job description, but watching his shifts will make you realize that he plays a lot more like a Thomas Vanek than an Erik Condra.
When it doesn't work, he and his teammates can bleed shots and be hemmed in their zone for long stretches, but when it does, it's quite brilliant.
So Montreal wins the draw and Alexei Emelin has the puck along the boards. He's ready to flip the puck out of the zone, in the general direction of Brandon Prust. If you've read my previous articles, you already know that this is a terrible way to break out of your zone, and that it's really not conducive to good puck possession numbers.
Here's a different angle. You'll see here that Mitchell and Weise are already flying the zone in anticipation for the pass, so Emelin doesn't really have much of a choice but to shoot the puck out.
Dumping the puck out is generally regarded as a "safe" play, but the Habs are flirting with danger on a two different levels here. The clearing attempt comes dangerously close to going directly into the seats for a delay of game penalty and could very well have bounced all the way down the rink for an icing call and a goal against right off the faceoff - exactly how Game 2 ended.
Instead, as if by an act of God, the puck stays in, takes a weird hop off a metal stanchion, and lands at the feet of Torrey Mitchell. He's in a tough position here, with his head down and no lateral passing options. But lo and behold, Dale Weise materializes in front of Mitchell, and calls for the puck.
All Weise has done so far is skate directly to the red line while his teammates tried to dig the puck out, and he's a five-foot pass away from hitting the Ottawa blue line with speed and control of the puck.
If only hockey was always this easy...
Mitchell does his part and pushes the puck up. Now, Weise does not have to beat a defenseman into the Ottawa zone, because he's already skated past the Senator's right D before receiving the puck. This is why players cheat - so that they have one fewer guy to go around when or if they get the puck.
Patrick Wiercioch (who I've picked on a lot in this series, come to think of it) is the last man back, and will have to make an aggressive lateral move to close the gap.
A quick recap of what's happened so far: the Habs are lucky not to have been whistled for an icing or a penalty. They get an insanely good bounce to break out of the zone. And now it's a one-on-one situation with Ottawa backcheckers doing a good job of boxing out the remaining Montreal players.
Wiercioch doesn't want to over-commit and risk Weise making a skill move to go in alone on Anderson, so he uses his long reach and forces Weise to shoot the puck outside of the faceoff dot. Not much of a scoring chance, and the type of shot a good NHL goalie should stop 95% of the time.
But Dale Weise has a secret: he's actually sneaky-good at shooting the puck.
With the toe of his stick blade, he drags the puck a foot into his body, out of the way of Wiercioch's stick. This helps him get more whip into his stick shaft and changes the geometry of the shot.
Essentially, by incorporating this little lateral movement right before releasing his wrister, Weise is opening up two to four inches' worth of space on the short side of Anderson's net.
The shot surprises the Ottawa netminder below the blocker, and the puck goes off the post and in.
In summary, Dale Weise isn't the second coming of Guy Lafleur. He might not even be a particularly outstanding NHL player. But when the world somehow conspires to make the bounces go his way, he's at least good enough to make the most of them.
Bad Corsi be damned. He put that puck in the net, and no one can take that away from him.
Jack Han is the Video & Analytics Coordinator for the McGill Martlet Hockey team. He also writes occasionally about the NHL for Habs Eyes on the Prize. You can find him on Twitter or on the ice at McConnell Arena.