After losing a number of key forwards such as Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, and Marcus Johansson to free agency and a trade, respectively, the Capitals looked to the continued development of fourth-year forward Andre Burakovsky as one of the possible possible players to fill the void the aforementioned players left, particularly Williams and Johansson. To say Burakovsky has struggled would be an understatement.
While Burakovsky did miss time due to a fractured hand, his performance in the games he has played has been wildly inconsistent, and it has led to the former first-round pick being scratched from the lineup by Head Coach Barry Trotz multiple times this season, and per NBC Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir, Burakovsky was not taking rushes with any of the four lines at practice this morning, a sign he could very well be sitting out the Caps’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, after he was benched in the final period of the first game of a home-and-home tilt on Tuesday. Burakovsky played just 6:34 minutes in that game, and his last shift came in the final 2:11 of the SECOND period, per NBC Sports Washington’s JJ Regan.
Many believed the 2017-18 season would be the one in which Burakovsky experienced a breakout campaign; instead, the soon-to-be 23-year old Swede (February 9) has just four goals and seven assists in 28 games played this season, with a minus-6 rating. He is averaging a career-high 13:48 of ice time a night, which is 38 seconds higher than his career average. In addition to his lack of consistency offensively, Burakovsky has turned the puck over 18 times this season and as one might expect, his struggles have taken a toll on the confidence of the young winger, something Burakovsky admitted himself. Despite being placed all over Trotz’ lineup, Burakovsky has yet to find some consistency and something needs to be done to solve it. The question is what?
For starters, Burakovsky must get more of his shots through to the opposition’s net, as less than half of his shots are getting through to the opposing netminder at even-strength (44.7%) and he is averaging only 1.4 points per 60 minutes at even-strength. Furthermore, the Capitals are allowing 2.6 goals against per 60 minutes when Burakovsky is on the ice, indicating a need fir Burakovsky to become more committed defensively. Burakovsky is averaging only 6.5 shots per 60 minutes at even-strength, compared to 7.8 and 7.5 in the last two seasons, respectively.
Whatever the problem is, it is one that the Capitals and Burakovsky himself must find an answer to. The Capitals expect Burakovsky to be a part of the team’s long-term future and in order for that to happen, he must prove himself capable of being able to produce consistently and effectively. Burakovsky’s season to date has been a problem. Now both team and player must find a successful solution.
By Michael Fleetwood