Count me among those who felt Brent Burns played pretty darn well in game one. Yeah, we remember the turnovers that led to scoring chances (and a goal against) but players, coaches and general managers are far too often judged on their biggest blunder rather than on their body of work.
So while it's easy to remember an ill-advised belly slide or a pinch that doesn't pay off, let's also remember that nobody had a better corsi-differential on Sunday than Burns. His +29 at all strengths is one of the best marks I've seen all season and he didn't let up much in game two. Score effects play a role here, but Burns +8 corsi differential on Tuesday (and two goals!) rank him tied for fourth on the Sharks and seventh in the game.
Possession numbers only tell us so much, of course, but his strong numbers match the eye test. He looked absolutely lethal in game two, rushing around the ice and imposing his size and skill whether it be offensively or defensively. Burns has the talent to take over games — something he very nearly did in game one despite his high-profile miscues — and something he certainly did in game two.
The two power-play goals, the first Sharks defender to ever score twice on the man-advantage in a single playoff game, were just reward for what has been an absolutely incredible postseason for Burns. Forget the Norris, if the Wookiee keeps this up he'll be in the Conn Smythe conversation. Okay, so I'm getting ahead of myself, but take a look at how absolutely unstoppable Burns is in the offensive end of the ice.
First, Burns keeps the puck in by throwing the puck to Patrick Marleau as Alexander Steen charges after him. Then he gets rewarded for that fine play by receiving a beautiful pass from Joe Pavelski. Burns makes no mistake, going down to one knee and absolutely rifling an unstoppable shot past Brian Elliott. This play is perfect in just about every way and Burns is right in the middle of it.
This goal looks a lot like the first. Burns doesn't quite go all the way down to one knee on this shot but he puts enough power on it that you can't blame Elliott for letting an unscreened shot from distance whizz by his left ear. It's a combination of timing and strength that makes Burns' shot so outrageously difficult to get in front of, and from Alex Ovechkin's office he's just about unstoppable.
While both his tallies came with the Sharks up a man, Burns played a fabulous even strength game as well. In the chart below, from the wonderful hockeyviz.com, you can see just how good Burns was at 5v5 play.
Not only was Burns on the ice for more San Jose shots than just about anyone on the team, he was also on the ice for nearly the fewest St. Louis shots on net. That kind of two-way play is what makes Burns so impossibly valuable for the Sharks. While it took a little adjustment for Burns to get comfortable as a defender again, Tuesday night's contest showed us a guy who's playing at the absolute top of his game right now.