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Alexandre Burrows of Senators fond of Rangers coach Alain Vigneault

Foes at present, mutual admiration from time together with Canucks

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

OTTAWA -- As much as Ottawa Senators forward Alexandre Burrows sees Alain Vigneault as the opponent now, the coach of the New York Rangers, the team standing in his way of getting one step closer to winning the Stanley Cup, in the back of his mind he still can hear Vigneault telling him what he needed to do to truly make it in the NHL.
 
That took place in the Vancouver Canucks coach's office following the 2006-07 season, after Burrows had already played 124 games in the League and had all of 21 points to show for it. This was when Vigneault, one season into his successful seven-season tenure with the Canucks, saw a player with potential, a player who would push himself, who deserved his time because he earned it.

"I remember AV brought me in at the end-of-the-year meeting and he said, 'Son, you're not good enough right now,'" Burrows said.

Except Vigneault said it in French to Burrows. He always talked in French to Burrows when they talked 1-on-1.

"He'd always call me 'Hey son,' but he would say it in French, 'Ti-gars,'" Burrows said.

Vigneault laid it out for 'Ti-gars' in this meeting after the Canucks lost in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals to the Anaheim Ducks.

"He sat down with me for 15-20 minutes and explained to me how important my summer was going to be," Burrows said. "He didn't have to do that. He could have said, 'Good year, we'll see you next September,' but he took 15-20 minutes of his time to make sure that I understood I had to bring my game to another level. I really got the message. I went to a nutritionist in the summer. I got really good workouts. I came in heavier but leaner and more ready to play a full NHL season. And that's when my career took off."

Burrows had 31 points in 2007-08, 28 goals and 51 points the next season, and then 35 goals and 67 points the following season, each still his NHL career high. He played with Ryan Kesler on the checking line before Vigneault put him with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin on the No. 1 line.

Now Burrows, with 920 games in the NHL, including 78 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is on the other side trying to use everything he learned from Vigneault against his former coach in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

The Senators lead the Rangers 2-0 in the best-of-7 series thanks in part to Burrows' play, diving and chipping the puck up the ice, to set up Jean-Gabriel Pageau's double-overtime winner Saturday.

Game 3 is at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"He's an example I think any coach in the League could use about a guy figuring it out and making it, but I never had to push him," Vigneault said before Game 2. "He was pushing himself."

It's obvious how much affection Vigneault still has for Burrows. When asked about him, Vigneault seemed excited at the chance to retell Burrows' story, the Cliffs Notes version, of perseverance.

He talked about how at 19 years old Burrows went to play with Shawinigan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as an overage player after completing a prolific ball-hockey career. He talked about his two-plus seasons in the ECHL, playing in South Carolina and Louisiana. He mentioned his time with Manitoba of the American Hockey League.

Burrows, undrafted, didn't make his NHL debut until he was 24 years old.

"I think he's a real good story of a player that figured it out," Vigneault said. "He made it on sheer will and determination.

"Probably everybody was telling him he couldn't make it. He did make it. He's a great story of perseverance."

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators-Rangers series coverage]

 

Burrows said he wouldn't have been able to persevere without Vigneault's guidance.

"He was always good for me," Burrows said. "He made me become a better player, understand the game better, how to play the right way, the high-percentage way.

"I was just a young guy who thought maybe the League was easier than what I expected it to be. I came in, my first year I had a few goals and I might have said this league isn't as hard as people said it is, but when you go after a tough year, you really realize this league is no joke. You have to prepare the right way. You have to train the right way. You have to put all your effort in. Just the trust, the communication, the ups and downs, he knew."

Vigneault still knows the damage Burrows can cause, that he'll continue to be in the face of Rangers players and goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the series shifts to New York, that he won't hesitate to speak his mind on the ice.

Vigneault knows how valuable Burrows is to a team in the playoffs.

Burrows had 32 points in 67 postseason games under Vigneault with the Canucks. He helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, when they lost in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins.

"We had a lot of good years, so obviously he's meant a lot to me," Burrows said. "We had some good success. We won [five] division titles in a row, a couple Presidents' Trophies, the Stanley Cup Final. But ultimately our goal was to win the Stanley Cup and we weren't able to accomplish that. Hopefully, I'll be able to get it done before he does."

He'll probably call Vigneault to thank him if he does.

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