Brent Burns was the difference in the finale of the San Jose Sharks trip east with his two-goal game Sunday, Feb. 12.
The final San Jose Sharks trip through the Eastern Conference should have been bountiful considering the opposition. Instead merely salvaging the roadie required heroics from Brent Burns in the finale Sunday, Feb. 12.
Burns scored the initial tying goal and the eventual winner, both in the second period. Each came on freakish shots through traffic showcasing why he is the greatest player in the world.
Yes, player not defenseman. Burns has been etching his name on the Norris Trophy all season but should be the Hart leader. He changes the Sharks while looking like he is playing against his little brother’s friends.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are still great without Sidney Crosby. They won the 2016 Stanley Cup because they had three lines producing. Connor MacDavid is as crucial to the Edmonton Oilers as Burns is to San Jose but not putting up generational production.
Burns drives the Sharks with 59 points, two off the 2016-17 NHL season lead. He was not even born the last time a defenseman won the scoring title (Bobby Orr in the 1974-75 season).
His 24 goals are already the 43rd-most in a season by a defenseman. Burns is on pace for the eight-most in NHL history (almost 35).
The last time anyone had more than 31 was before MacDavid was born (34 by Kevin Hatcher in 1992-93). The last time anyone had 35-plus was Paul Coffey with the Oilers in 1985-86, when Burns was a year old.
He is getting it done defensively, too. Burns has the fifth-most blue-line takeaways (37) in the league. He is third on San Jose’s blue line in hits (53) and blocks (98) while remaining the team’s best option to shut down an odd-man rush.
Still Team Game
Nevertheless, hockey is a team game. Burns needs more Sharks to win consistently.
San Jose dropped Thursday’s game to the Boston Bruins following consecutive overtime losses. Adding Saturday’s overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers resulted in a season-long four-game losing streak.
Still, the Sharks mustered three points despite playing uncharacteristically sloppy in their own end. All-Star goalie Martin Jones gave up seven goals from the third period against the Buffalo Sabres through the first against the Bruins.
Starting its final Eastern Conference road trip so poorly put San Jose on its heels. It also raised questions about fatigue for Jones.
Backup Aaron Dell was better but got tagged with two losses (0-1-1). He played the last two periods of the Boston game, allowing two goals on 20 shots. He started Saturday and allowed two on 35 in an overtime loss.
It was just the second time the Sharks lost to the Flyers in their last 20 head-to-head games. Jones rebounded with 21 saves on 22 shots against the Devils Sunday, sweeping the season series.
The win allowed San Jose to put the road trip behind it, both literally and figuratively. Regarding the former, the team returns home home to face the Florida Panthers Wednesday. Meanwhile, remaining more than two games up on Edmonton and the Anaheim Ducks helps in moving on.