By Jeff Paterson
His team is in first place in its division and the penalty killing unit that he's a huge part of is tops in the league - Alex Burrows should be thrilled with the way things are going in his first full season in the National Hockey League.
But the feisty left winger who's closing in on his first crack at NHL playoff hockey knows there's so much more he can bring to the hockey club. While delighted to be part of a team that's had tremendous success since Christmas, Burrows expects more of himself.
The 25-year-old buzz saw doesn't want to challenge Daniel Sedin
or Markus Naslund for the team goal scoring lead, but he knows he can - and should - score more than the one goal he has this season.
"I always want to score goals. Every game I look at it as 'tonight might be the night I could make the difference' and that's the way I think I have to look at it. Especially now with 20 games left, if I can get five or six -- or I guess I should start with one and get another one - that would be good. Every goal's going to be a big goal from now on," he says. "It would be nice to contribute more offensively, but at the same time, I have to make sure I still play really good defensively, good on the penalty kill and still get under people's skin. But hopefully I can get a little more offence going."
While not losing sleep over his lack of production, clearly the fact Burrows has just one goal all season and has now gone 22 games without scoring is gnawing away at the Pincourt, Quebec native. He scored seven goals in 43 games in his rookie season and figured the offence would flow as freely - if not more-so - with a year of experience under his belt.
But that simply hasn't been the case. He went 38 games without scoring before netting a beauty in Calgary on January 2nd, racing down the right wing and drawing Mikka Kiprusoff out of position before reaching back and tucking the puck into the unguarded goal while circling behind the net.
That Burrows' last goal and it was also the last point he picked up. Burrows has now gone 39 games without picking up an assist but has made a significant impact on the penalty kill.
With all of the down-to-the-wire games the Canucks have been involved in since Christmas, Burrows knows any contributions he and his fellow grinders can make to the cause will go a long way to helping the Canucks finish first in the Northwest Division and give them home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
"Every goal is going to be good down the stretch here. Hopefully the fourth line can get a goal or two because that would really help the team especially in these one goal games," he says.
The thing that is making Burrows' offensive struggles easier to deal with is the fact that the Canucks continue to find ways to win hockey games. And where a year ago, he was a rookie just along for the ride on a team headed in the wrong direction, this year Alex Burrows says he'll do whatever he can to get his team where it needs to be.
"Those last 10 games last year we were a couple of points back and we just couldn't get it done. It just seemed like everybody wanted to go home and relax for the summer," he recalls of the 2005-06 Canucks who unraveled at the wrong time of the season. "I think guys really get along this year. We've got a really good group and the chemistry is great and everyone's working really hard. I think that's the biggest thing. Hard work always pays off and right now we can see that all the hard work we put in earlier in the year is paying off. There are still 20 games to go so we have to keep going and keep rising to the challenge and look forward to the playoffs."
Playoffs are the ultimate goal for both Alex Burrows and his hockey team. And he knows the more goals he can score over the final six weeks, the better the Canucks' chances of going to the post-season.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org