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Winning Draws an Emerging Part of Burish’s Game

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Throughout his NHL career, Adam Burish has shown a knack for doing all those little things that might not show up on the score sheet, but are no less important to his team’s success. No matter whether he’s skating on the third or fourth line, this Wisconsin native is one of the truly unsung guys on the Dallas roster.

Not only does he do the little things like blocking a shot, digging a puck out of a corner or finishing his checks, but he is also a hugely positive force in the Stars room. That was apparent last season, his first with the Stars when then head coach Marc Crawford called him someone that was integral to the club’s success.

But recently, Burish has been adding a new facet to his game, prowess in the face-off circle. In fact, in last Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix at American Airlines Center, he was 3-for-4 on draws, a solid 75 percent success rate. This performance came just a few days removed from a perfect 6-for-6 showing in the circle, something Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan definitely noticed.

“Well, he’s an important guy for us as far as he’s a right-shot guy who takes face-offs. He’s a guy that we rely on to give the team a little of a spark in the way he’s played and competed. He does what we want him to do out there,” Gulutzan said. “He goes to the net and does those little things that there are no points on the sheet from doing it. Down the stretch, it’s a work stretch here. We’ve got skilled guys in there but our workers like Bur are going to be real important.”

And being strong in the circle is something the grinding forward takes a great deal of pride in, especially as the 2011-12 regular season heads into its stretch.

“Last year, it was a job that I took seriously. I had a lot of chances at it last year and this year, not so much early on. I think he (Gulutzan) was kind of getting an idea of who was good at it, who wasn’t good at it,” Burish said. “I’m good at this. I want to be out there. And part of it’s on me. You’ve got to continue to show that you’re ready, you’re prepared.”

However, the ex-Badger approaches taking draws a bit differently than some might think.

“To me, face-offs are not a skill. It’s an attitude going into a draw that hey, I’m going to win this thing. I want it more than you. Some guys go into a draw and they just put their stick in there and hope. Other guys get in there and battle. And if you get in there and battle, I think your percentage is going to be better than 50. If you’re better than 50, the closer you get to 60, it’s top of the league,” Burish said.

While face-offs might not be something many fans or media take much notice of during the regular season, this hard-working Star knows it’s definitely not part of the game that should ever be taken for granted.

“I take it seriously. I think it’s an important part of the game,” Burish said. “I think late in games is when it’s especially important. Last game, I felt good. Last couple of games I felt pretty good about what I need to do. Hopefully as we go here, I can be counted on to win some big draws late in games.”

Stars veteran Radek Dvorak has skated alongside Burish on Dallas’ third line at different points this year and the seasoned NHL forward has definitely been impressed with what he has brought to the ice but also to the room.

“He’s a great guy in the locker room. He’s a hard working guy on the ice. He’s always in a scrum. He can make plays. He can play any role on this team. That’s what we need from guys like him,” Dvorak said. “If can put him on the first line, second line, he can play there. He’s not scared to go into the scrums and make plays. He’s also a very positive guy. That’s something we need. Every team needs somebody like this.”

But Burish wasn’t always so focused on becoming proficient on the draw. In fact, it has only become a top priority for him over the last few seasons.

“Probably maybe the last three years or so is when I’ve really kind of focused on it. Early on in my career, I didn’t realize it was as big of a deal as I did as we got going into playoffs. My first three years in Chicago, we never made the playoffs. In the last two, we were in playoffs, so that’s when you really get a sense of wow, this is really important,” Burish said.

And he realizes that if he can make winning face-offs a top priority during the regular season, that doing so when that really matters, when the Stars return to the playoffs, will be no big deal. That will also be one way he can positively impact his team when it matters the most.

“You can get yourself a lot of opportunities and if you’re good at draws, you can win a lot of hockey games and you can finish off a game if you can win a draw. So the last three years, last two in Chicago, going deep in the playoffs, and then last year here was when I started to kind of say I’ve got to really work at this,” Burish said. “I really want to make it a big part of my game. The last year and a half, I’ve felt pretty darned comfortable every time I take a draw.”

During his time in Chicago, he also got the chance to watch someone known for being quite adept in the circle, which also drove him to become a better face-off man.

“The year we went to the conference finals (in Chicago), I played center and it’s a big part of the game. The year we won the Cup, I played with John Madden. He’s was a great face-off guy, so he was out there a lot taking draws. Late in games and in playoff games, if you could win that draw late in the period or late in the game, you ice the game, you seal the game, it’s over with,” Burish said.

He definitely knows that being someone that Gulutzan can depend on in the circle come playoff time is always a great thing, especially since he’s seen firsthand how valuable winning draws can be once the puck drops in the playoffs.

“Regular season, you don’t hear a whole lot about it. Within your team you do a little bit but you don’t hear a lot about it. But once playoffs come, it’s one of the key points,” Burish said. “In playoffs, starting with the puck is real important and finishing games late in games with the puck is real important. So if you’ve got some guys that are good at it and that you can count on, it makes a difference.”

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