Winning Play: Burns keeps Sharks afloat

Burns Keeps Sharks Afloat

Perhaps suffering from Game 7 hangover, the San Jose Sharks’ legs appeared heavy at the outset of Game 1.

Just 2:10 in, Gabriel Bourque gave the Colorado Avalanche an early lead. The Avalanche, who had been resting at home for almost a week, clearly had more jump.

It was a contest that could have easily gotten away from the Sharks. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Avs rolled to a 19-6 Scoring Chances edge at 5-on-5 in the first period.

Yet, the score was tied at one apiece after the opening frame.

Sometimes, it’s up to your superstars to keep you in games that you shouldn’t be in.

Logan Couture (39) won the draw back to Brent Burns (88). Alexander Kerfoot (13) raced out to defend the point, but he didn’t have a clear lane.

“That’s good work by Timo. Doing a good job coming out on the same lane. No interference or anything,” Burns noted.

“Every team runs that pick,” Matt Nieto indicated. “Every team tries to buy time and space for whoever gets the puck off the draw.”

It’s the Norris Trophy nominee who makes something out of nothing.

“I was kind of out of position a little bit,” Kerfoot admitted. “He’s got such a long reach, he pulls it so far. He’s so skilled, all of a sudden, it’s a Grade-A scoring chance.”

“Not a lot of dmen in the league are going to make that move, being the last guy back,” Nieto said of his ex-teammate. “He’s a guy who’s not afraid to make those kind of plays. He finds a way to get to the interior of the ice.”

Kerfoot acknowledged, however, that small plays like Meier’s matter more when they’re buying time and space for players of Burns’s ilk: “I think so. Their D are so active. You got Burns and Karlsson back there, they’re so good laterally.”

“Burns just makes a good play. It’s pretty harmless when it’s almost any other defenseman up there,” Nieto added.

Burns, however, didn’t want to expand on his contribution to Gustav Nyquist’s first postseason goal as a Shark: “Gus did a great job going to the net. Great hands, great play.”

Nieto noted, “We just sort of lost coverage a little bit.”

However, there’s no doubt who the Avs are watching.

“We have to do a better job of not giving their D so much time with the puck,” admitted Kerfoot.

The Best Third Line Left?

The construction of a successful line is always fascinating. Such is the case with the Marcus Sorensen—Joe Thornton—Kevin Labanc trio.

At first blush, Labanc and Thornton, two pass-first playmakers, seem like an odd couple.

Peter DeBoer countered: “Guys with elite offensive brains, which Jumbo and Bancer have, good offensive players want to play with good offensive players. It’s not as complicated as this guy’s a pass-first or this guy’s a shoot-first. You have offensive instincts, or you don’t. And they do.”

Labanc noted that playing with such a great passer almost forces him to shoot more, because he’s receiving passes he can’t, ahem, pass up: “[Thornton] knows when to get the puck to you. He sees an opening when other players don’t. You’ve got to be ready to get that shot off. Even for him, he knows when to shoot it himself.”

As for Sorensen, he’s the “junkyard dog” of this line.

“He’s a hard worker. Always first one in on the forecheck,” Labanc said. “Backchecking too. He really helps our line.”

Of course, Sorensen’s got hands too. The 26-year-old set a career high with 17 goals this season.

In a brave admission, DeBoer credited Thornton with recognizing Sorensen’s offensive chops before he did: “Marcus is guy that Joe recognized something in, something offensively. For sure before I did. I wasn’t sure whether he was just going to be a fourth-line energy penalty killer or if he had the offensive instincts to get 15-20 goals. Joe saw that.

“Joe wanted Sorensen [on the line]. He asked for Sorensen. He saw something in him that meshed well with him, with his game.”