What’s The Deal With Andre Burakovsky

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. 

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.

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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

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9 Responses to What’s The Deal With Andre Burakovsky

  1. I could be wrong, but to me Andre plays like he’s afraid of making mistakes–also afraid of his coach…and considering some of the mistakes he makes I can see where he would be…Of course, if that’s true it’s not likely he’ll admit it…After all, Terry Bradshaw didn’t let on that he was afraid of the late Chuck Noll until after he retired to the broadcast booth (and then confirmed it later in his New York Times best selling autobiography “It’s Only a Game”)

    As for Coach Trotz, he has a longstanding distrust of youngsters and tends to sit them for significant stretches when they mess up–or else play them diminished minutes even when they’re performing decently because, well, he trusts his vets. It isn’t the best way to develop talent or instill confidence but for now it is what it is…

    Personally, I Iike this kid a lot. When he first came up it seemed to me that he got skated off the puck pretty often–when opponents could catch him–which I attributed to the fact that his “man bones” weren’t fully developed yet. And he still has a tendency to shoot and skate like Yvan Cournoyer or Bobby Rousseau when he scores a goal, but doesn’t often skate the same way when he’s held off the scoreboard. That, and turning the puck over in bad places won’t endear him to his coach, his teammates or the fans–particularly in high stakes situations like the one we’re in now.

    It’s just my gut, but I still think it would be a mistake to give up on this kid. I hope he can be less injury prone in the years ahead, and have more and more epiphanal moments which culminate in him becoming the All-Star-type player that his skill set suggests he should be…we’ll see…

    Viva Red,


  2. diidlake says:

    I would be very surprised if we were to see him dressed for game five. Doesn’t look the same since his surgery for sure. – diidlake

    • Since it doesn’t take much for BT to play the DNPCD card when less experienced players don’t play up to their potential I’d be shocked too…

      The bottom line is that Andre has to figure out how NOT to turn pucks over–make the simple play and keep things flowing in the right direction. That comes with experience (read, PT–and with wing mates who pair well with his skills)…But the catch 22 of it is that repeated mistakes will keep him from getting enough in-game experience to make things right…And the less playing time he gets the more he figures to press when he IS in the lineup, which often triggers even more mistakes which will get punished with even less ice time and so on…


  3. redLitYogi says:

    strongly agreed! (I’ve said basically the same thing, in fact!) Burakovsky needs to be played in the right context then he’ll be fine. Here are two sets of lines I’d like to see, one to get goals, one with a lead past the midpoint:
    to get goals: 8-92-13 18-19-77 65-20-43 10-83-25
    past midpoint, with lead 8-92-43 13-20-77 65-19-18 10-83-25
    Vrana’s presence on the top line makes it a lethal threat. The only thing that can stop it is the coach. I like Stephenson with Oshie as much as possible since I think he reads Oshie’s game well. Bura started to do so as well. Connolly is more than a 4th line player but unlike Bura, he can function there and he’s certainly better than Chiasson.

    • Well said–and really good suggestions for line pairings–not that Barry’s gonna listen….
      As for Connolly, I sooo agree with you…each year he’s among the league leaders in shooting percentage. If you look at the goals he scores (like the sick goal he rifled between his defender’s legs and up under the crossbar for our 6th and final goal in game two) he’s a sniper…Yet he still finds himself on the bench more than his talent seems to decree…That doesn’t surprise me, though, since our head coach tends to be unnecessarily parsimonious when it comes down to handing out PT to younger players… I hope that changes if Trotz remains our coach after this year… but I guess we’ll see…

      End, Clifford

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