Photo: Debora Robinson
Since December, Andre Burakovsky‘s usage in the Caps lineup has been curious as Barry Trotz has had to juggle playing time among veteran and younger players. Coming into Sunday’s game, the skilled young Swede had not received more than nine minutes of ice time since the beginning of February. He’d been used as a fourth-line center, a second-line winger, and a first line winger. He had been scratched in three of the team’s last four games.
But in Burakovsky’s return to the lineup on Sunday against Anaheim, The Burracuda scored twice off of two amazing primary assists from Alex Ovechkin. He played nearly 13 minutes on the team’s first line.
For the first goal, Ovechkin found Burakovsky wide open after the Ducks double-teamed the captain. Burra’s perfectly placed wrist shot eluded Josh Gibson. That would stand up as the game-winning goal.
Midway through the third period, Burakovsky scored again. Ben Lovejoy (understandably) committed to Ovechkin during a two-on-one, so the Russian machine snapped a pass across the slot. Burakovsky made some sweet dekes and did the damn thing again.
Burakovsky might get a more regular role after his performance on Sunday, but when he spoke to The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt last week, he sounded like a man whose confidence was shattered:
I have to think when I’m playing, because I’ve been in the stands so many times, I just want to do the easy parts. I think I have to stop doing all the easy stuff and I have to start playing my own game. Not taking risk at the wrong spot on the ice, but do the stuff I’m good at. I used to beat my guy one-on-one, but it feels like I’m not really trying to do that anymore. I’m trying to do the easy stuff, the safe stuff out there. I want to go back and play my own game. When I do that, that’s when I’m [at my] best.
Sounds a bit like Braden Holtby last year.
Recently, Predators’ star Filip Forsberg hinted that he felt bad for his fellow countryman in an interview with Per Bjurman of Aftonbladet. Forsberg, who played games on the fourth line when he wasn’t buried in the AHL, experienced Trotz’s curious use of young players firsthand.
Magnus Cadelin has your translation.
[Forsberg] tells me that it didn’t feel one bit wrong to play and beat the Caps last month.
“No, that obviously felt good. And they have Trotz as a coach too…”
Not that Filip bashes anyone publically, but he notes that “Burra” (André Burakovsky) gets about the same treatment as he did himself last year.
“I prefer what we’ve got now, hockey wise. It’s better than it was before. I noticed first day at development camp last summer that there were new winds blowing. Last year we just skated without the puck for two days. This year we had a particular skills-coach for pure offensive development and we practiced getting passes on the tape all the time.”
With any luck, this is the game that will give Burakovsky a full-time role in the Caps’ top-six for the rest of the season. He’s too talented for dumping and chasing on the fourth line. If he gets quality minutes with any consistency, his development will continue.
Alex Ovechkin apparently agrees.
Ovi on Burakovsky: "Of course he don’t have that kind of experience yet, but 100 percent in the future, he’s going to be one of our leader."
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) February 16, 2015
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