Brent Burns' most impressive attributes helped him become one of the best offensive defenders in the NHL. In Wednesday's 3-2 victory, Burns showed improvement in his defensive game while also showcasing his offensive talents.
Burns' goal gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead and set the tone for the damage to come later on San Jose's power play. He also added a secondary assist on Patrick Marleau's vital insurance goal early in the third period. The two points stand out, but a quick glance through his possession numbers likely won't impress.
In all strengths, Burns was a +7, third best on the Sharks and a sign of a guy who spent a lot of time on the power play. At even strength, that number drops to a not-so-sterling -5 and moves him to the middle of the pack on his own team. That number doesn't tell the whole story, though. Burns started a whopping 84.62 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone at even strength, meaning right off the draw the Wookiee had to clamp down defensively.
And boy did he. In addition to taking five shots on goal, Burns blocked a pair of Kings shots and looked as comfortable in the Sharks' end of the ice as I've seen all season. He timed his hits well, adding only two according to the box score, using his body to seal off Kings forwards while turning the possession arrow back to San Jose. This chart, from Hockeyviz, gives a visual look at how many shifts Burns started down in the defensive end.
You'll notice the fourth line didn't take a single 5v5 shift in the Sharks end of the ice, and if you head back to that HockeyStats page you'll see players like Nick Spaling lead San Jose in even strength corsi. Credit Pete DeBoer for knowing the optimal time and place to roll out his lines. If the Sharks close this series out, the big guns will be the reason why. So will goals like this.
This is why Burns plays nearly every second of the power play. He fits in perfectly to the Sharks power play formation and you just can't teach a shot that heavy. Jonathan Quick had no chance to get over and Burns just blew the puck by him. That secondary assist he picked up on Marleau's goal won't blow anyone away, but it's the kind of cycle that the Sharks have shown to be so good at on the man-advantage, and Burns cross-ice passing is a big part of that.
Plus, watching those goals again is pretty fun. The Sharks won last night because of the power play, but don't let Burns solid defensive play get swept under the rug. Put in a tough position, and logging heavy minutes, the Wookiee won — even though the Kings weren't going to let him.