While the rest of the hockey world continues to take sides in the Alex Burrows/Stephane Auger/Ron McLean/Colin Campbell/Jerred Smithson/Andrew Raycroft/He said, he said/Who’s telling the truth affair – I believe that is it’s official title now – we’re going to do our best with this column to move the focus back on to the ice where it belongs.
Lost in everything that has been said, written, done and analyzed to death is the fact that Alex Burrows is scoring goals at an alarming rate. With a terrific short-handed breakaway effort against Pittsburgh on Saturday night, Burrows now has 11 goals in his last seven games and has joined Henrik Sedin for top spot in the goal-scoring derby with 21 on the season. Seventeen of those goals have come in the past 25 games.
And going back to last January, Burrows now has 39 goals in the last 82 regular-season games that he has suited up for. But it goes much deeper than that. It’s how Alex Burrows has scored almost every one of those goals that makes his story that much more compelling.
An exhaustive statistical breakdown (alright it wasn’t that much work and my wife was hogging the TV to watch the Golden Globes, so what else was I going to do?) reveals that only Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk have scored more non-power play (even-strength and short-handed) goals in the National Hockey League over the past 12 months than Burrows.
Think about that for a sec. Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Burrows in the same sentence about top goal-scorers in the NHL. I’d say that’s keeping pretty good company.
In his last 82 regular season games, Ovechkin has 42 even-strength or short-handed goals while Kovalchuk has scored 40. Not far behind, Burrows has found the back of the net 37 times at even-strength or while skating a man-short. That puts him up high on a list of pretty impressive names – Sidney Crosby (34), Patrick Marleau (33), Rick Nash (32) and Henrik Sedin (30).
And this is where Burrows’ accomplishments really stand out. Because while the others on that list are All-Stars, Olympians and a few are Hart Trophy winners, Burrows is still a grinder at heart –a hustler with a pretty soft set of hands -- who has found his role alongside the Sedins and made the most of a terrific opportunity.
No one who has ever skated a shift in the ECHL has ever scored more goals in an NHL season than the 27 Burrows bagged last year – and he appears well on his way to besting that mark this time around. So Burrows has already taken his game places no one ever imagined. The odds were stacked against him making it from the ECHL to the top league in the world and the numbers show the odds are stacked against him with his even-strength scoring success, too.
Alexander Ovechkin is eighth among NHL forwards in average ice time per game (21:27) and eighth in even-strength minutes per game (16:23). Ilya Kovalchuk is third in the NHL in per game ice time (22:00) and sixth in terms of even-strength minutes (16:38).
Alex Burrows is fifth among forwards – ON HIS OWN TEAM – when it comes even-strength ice time. The guy averages 13:56 per game at even strength which ranks him 100th among NHL forwards in that department. His overall ice-time per game places him 119th among league forwards. So this is hardly a fair fight. And yet through it all, Alex Burrows continues to bag big goals for the Vancouver Canucks.
Now, numbers can be spun to sing and dance and tell just about every story imaginable. But at the end of the day, any time you’re ranked just behind two of the best goals scorers in the game in any statistical category, you must be doing something right.
Alex Burrows would be the first to tell you he hasn’t always been a choir boy during his time in the NHL. But he’s elevated his game way beyond the perception still held by so many around the league.