(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
Brent Burns wasn’t exactly a household name in the National Hockey League a few years ago, but he’s making fans and fellow players notice him.
Burns gets some of his recognition from wearing his wacky suits, his man bun, the playoff beard and his offensive ability with the puck, but that’s not all. His defense has come along the past couple seasons and continues to improve. Burns’ play on the ice this season has earned him a spot among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is given to the League’s best overall defenseman.
When Burns is on the ice, it’s like having another forward out there for the Sharks. He can move the puck quickly out of his own zone, join the rush in the offensive zone and lead the rush. He has uncanny offensive skill to go with speed, which can be a dangerous mix. The defenseman hasn’t missed a game, regular season or playoffs, yet this season for the Sharks. In 82 regular season games, he has 27 goals, 48 assists, 75 points to go with 25:52 of ice time per game.
The 27 goals, 48 assists, 75 points and 25:52 of ice time were all career highs for him. He improved his overall scoring total by 15 points from last season to this season. In 19 postseason games, he has six goals, 16 assists, 22 points and is averaging 25:02 of ice time per game. His 22 points are the most by a defenseman since Brian Leetch had 34 in 1994. Only Leetch, Al MacInnis, Ray Bourque and Larry Murphy have more points during a single playoff season as a defenseman than Burns.
When one thinks of Brent Burns, one might automatically think “offensive defenseman”, but he has been good at both ends of the rink this year. He plays on the Sharks’ number one defensive pairing with Paul Martin, who is more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Burns has played against the league’s best players and has held his own. The defenseman has the ability to log a ton of minutes and shut opposing teams top players down like he and the Sharks did to Vladimir Tarasenko in the Western Conference Final.
Yes, he may be out of postition from time to time, but let’s be honest, so is almost every other defenseman that plays in the NHL. If he’s caught deep in the offensive zone or a puck takes a weird bounce past him, he has the speed to get back and make the defensive play. In game one, Carl Hagelin had a couple of steps on him, but Burns got back to breakup the play as Hagelin was attempting to take the shot.
He was the player that lost his stick for the Sharks trying to block Kris Letang’s passing attempt, but he still tried to do everything in his power to keep Letang from getting the puck to Nick Bonino, who scored the game-winning goal in game one. Paul Martin should have had this stick on the ice and the pass would have been broken up and the puck would have never gotten to Bonino.
Burns has already had his coming out party this postseason, but it could be even bigger if he can help lead the Sharks to its first ever Stanley Cup.