During game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning my timeline was lit-up with fans calling for Andre Burakovsky to be benched for his play. Even though nothing he did led to a goal against. Admittedly he did have a rough game, a handful of turnovers along the wall were very noticeable.
Burakovsky with 2 consecutive turnovers on zone entries during that last power play. #ALLCAPS
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 18, 2018
But before that game he was doing quite well in the playoffs. Here are how his stats looked and how they compared to his fellow forwards:
Corsi: 54.09% (7th)
Scoring Chances: 52.46% (7th)
High Danger Chances: 58.68% (3rd)
Ozone Starts: 50% (9th lowest on the team)
On Ice Shooting Percentage: 6.63% (7th lowest on the team)
What that tells me is he was putting up good to great possession and scoring chances while not getting many opportunities at starting in the offensive zone. Also, while he was on the ice his team was unlucky with their shooting, which accounts for lack of points.
The reason I didn’t include last game was because he was relegated to the 4th line and that just isn’t his game and it showed in the numbers. As with all skilled players, they need to play with other skilled players to make anything happen. Nothing against Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly, but they aren’t skilled enough players for Burakovsky. They play that “throw the puck low and grind it out to get chances”, that isn’t Burakovsky’s game.
The young Swede is probably the best player besides Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom at finding teammates in those soft areas and getting the puck to them. He has created countless scoring chances this way for his team. But as stated, that isn’t Beagle or DSP’s game, they don’t find those areas.
It happened at least three times last night (by my count) that Burakovsky had the puck along the wall, looked up to find that open person but they were nowhere to be found. Eventually a defensive player would throw Burakovsky down and steal the puck. To me that’s half on Burakovsky and half on his teammates for not knowing where they should be when playing with him. It just isn’t a good match. When Jakub Vrana was on the 4th line during the Penguins series he was also pretty invisible for the same reason.
The best way to utilize Burakovsky last night would have been to put him with Backstrom and Stephenson. The two Swedes have always worked well together. That way each of the top three lines would have had at least two top 6 players on them.
Let’s also not forgot he’s coming off an injury that kept him out most of the playoffs. To have a minor surgery, miss a good chunk of time, then come back in the heat of the playoffs cannot be easy for anybody. You could tell even Backstrom was shaking off the rust last night.
Unfortunately, Burakovsky’s performance will most likely land him in the press box for game 5, replaced by Alex Chiasson. I know many will be happy about this but they shouldn’t. Burakovsky is a legit top 6 skilled player and he can help this team achieve a 3-2 series lead. But if he isn’t going to be utilized in the top 9 then it is the right choice to bring in Chiasson or even Nathan Walker. Those players are a better fit for the 4th line so they should be there.
Whatever happens, people shouldn’t sour on Burakovsky. His only flaw is he can’t seem to stay healthy. He’s a top 6 young talent that the Capitals will need for years to come and that we’ll hopefully see more in these playoffs.
By Luke Adomanis