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Andre Burakovsky is Back — And at the Perfect Time

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DENVER – Andre Burakovsky hardly slept the night before the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Having already climbed to the top of hockey’s highest mountain with that magical Washington Capitals team in 2018, you’d think Burakovsky would be something of a Finals pressure cooker tuned in. But this time, the 27-year-old couldn’t contain his excitement about the upcoming series, telling reporters about how he woke up at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, ready to jump out of bed onto the ice.

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“Just wait until you have kids,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who sat next to Burakovsky on the post-match media stand, remarked with a grin.

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“You will get up at 6 every day”

You can’t blame Burakovsky for wanting to get back on the ice as soon as possible. The fast winger is eager to once again contribute to the growing Avalanche as he has struggled with both performance and injury to this point in the postseason.

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Burakovsky hasn’t shown his best hockey lately, entering Wednesday’s competition with just one goal and five points in 10 games.

However, there was a chance to redeem himself in the first game and he took advantage of it by completing a beautiful pass, scoring to the game winner with less than two minutes left in overtime to give the Avalanche a 1–0 series lead.

Here are your morning nerves.

However, aside from the cup ring, the next two weeks represent a very important hockey stretch for Burakwoski’s future. With a two-year, $9.8 million contract he signed back in 2020 that expires in the coming weeks, Burakovsky is set to go public while in the middle of his prime, allowing him to command what will almost certainly run out. it is the most lucrative contract of his career.

If his resume had ended after the regular season, it would have been easy.

Burakovsky had an excellent 2021-2022 campaign with the Avalanche, scoring 22 goals and 61 points in 80 games, while producing brilliant results when it came to both expected goals and chance creation. His presence gave Colorado’s frontline hull an air of depth that was nearly impossible to resist, and Burakovsky’s combination of nimble skills packed into a 6’3″ frame gave coach Jared Bednar a versatile winger equally capable of thriving in his team’s top or bottom six. .

The playoffs, on the other hand, were a different story.

Injuries and inconsistency slowed Burakovsky through the first three rounds, limiting his team’s trademark depth and forcing big Avs gunners like Nathan McKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and, prior to his injury, Nazem Kadri, to carry a heavier load.

During this time, Burakovsky’s main numbers went from positive to somewhat negative, with his expected goal share dropping from 51.92 percent in the regular season to 46.57 percent in the playoffs; his share of scoring chances increased from 54.23 percent to 51.69 percent. Even Burakovsky’s use dropped significantly as the playoffs progressed, with Bednar limiting him to 10 minutes on the ice in two of his last five games and even scratching him in games 4 and 5 of the Avs second round series against St. Louis Blues.

Even with his impressive regular season, Burakovsky’s postseason performance is sure to leave a nasty aftertaste in the mouth of potential future employers.

But the new series brings with it a clean slate. And Burakovsky took advantage of the fresh start provided in game one, using his large frame to dominate along the boards in all three areas, helping the Avalanche score 64.66% of expected goals and 66.67% of available scoring chances on home ice with equal strength. . time and qualify to take the ice approximately 90 seconds into overtime before scoring the winning goal.

Bednar saw a player desperately trying to make a difference. So, he gave it a chance and it paid off in the most fitting way.

“I thought he was really hard tonight,” Bednar said of his resurgent winger.

“He handled the puck very well. There were no losses. He checked hard. He overtook pucks. He skated well. He has opportunities, he can put the puck in the net. Today is all-around for him. I think it was very strong.”

Since Burakovsky and Darren Helm are the only two members of this Avalanche team to win the Stanley Cup in their careers, this experience has become more important than ever for the team in the championship fight.

For most players, this is their first trip even after the second round, which essentially causes a new kind of pressure with each passing streak, which can be devastating for some players. Having teammates who have been there before helps. The fact that they make an important contribution helps even more.

“I went through it and I kind of know what to expect and I know the pace,” Burakovsky explained his ability to navigate the moment.

“I feel like I was there and I know the situation and what is at stake. So yes, it helped.”

Burakovsky seemed like a player accustomed to Wednesday night pressure. Instead of melting under the hot sun, he enjoyed it, playing perhaps his best game of the postseason and in the process giving back to his team one of the key weapons of their breakneck success.

Hockey is much more fun when you play well. Burakovsky, who was only minutes away from what could be the biggest goal of his career, repeated exactly that.

“I didn’t think too much. It was some kind of crazy feeling, ”said Burakovsky.

“I am so grateful to be here in this final and help the team win the game. So it was definitely a good feeling.”

Judging by the first game, new pleasant sensations await us in the coming days.


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