Andre Burakovsky is having a slow start to the season. After losing a month and a half to a broken thumb, he’s struggled to find consistency since he returned on December 8. Burakovsky scored two goals and had three points against Dallas on December 19, but has tallied only an assist in his nine other December games.
On Saturday morning, The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reported that Burakovsky will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
Caps this morning:
Burakovsky, Bowey are healthy scratches.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 30, 2017
Both Bowey and Burakovsky made soft plays in Thursday night’s Caps-Bruins game that led to a first period goal by Noel Acciari. Bowey lost a board battle with with the Caps forward and Burakovsky failed to help near the crease as Acciari scored to give the team an early 2-0 lead.
On top of that noncommittal play in the defensive end, Burakovsky’s offense has fallen off this year as well. Through 64 games during the 2016-17 season, Burakovsky had 95 shots on goal, roughly 1.5 shots per game. He’s at 1.1 shots per game this season with similar drops in his scoring chances and shot attempts. Goal and point production has also fallen.
Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch throughout his career with the Capitals. In 2015, after getting scratched three straight times, Burakovsky scored twice in his return. While struggling during the 2016-17 season, Burakovsky spent time in the press box after going goal-less in 26 games. Barry Trotz rested Burakovsky for three games, and he scored in his return.
On a podcast with Japers’ Rink Radio in 2016, CSN analyst Alan May spoke about what could be challenging Burakovsky on the ice.
“Well, unfortunately right now he looks like a one-trick pony offensively,” May said. “What I mean by that is that he takes the exact same shot every time he shoots the puck. He only has one play and it’s a curl-and-drag wrist shot, and he’s gotta pull the puck back too far. You saw how few shots he’s had in the last 12-15 games he’s barely registering a shot on net. Most of his shots get blocked, they get deflected, because he always pulls the puck back. He’s gotta learn a lot more releases, he’s gotta have more of a variety of shots.”
Barry Trotz thinks highly of the healthy scratch as a coaching tool. In early November, Jakub Vrana spent a game in the press box for being in “participation mode.” Brett Connolly has been a heathy scratch this season as well. Since being scratched on November 16, Vrana has tallied 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) in 19 games.
Trotz may hope that Burakovsky will spend his night off examining the game from a different angle and understand what he needs to do better. If history repeats itself, Burakovsky may come back even more motivated.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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