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Game Preview/Lines #37: Brent Burns, Unsung Hero?



Credit: NBCS Bay Area


San Jose Sharks (16-16-4)

Los Angeles Kings (14-15-6)

Per LA Kings Insider, Jonathan Quick should start and Kale Clague may draw in.

That’s all the info that we have, as the Kings did not host morning media availability. This is, by the way, how they lined up last night:

Where to Watch

Puck drop is 7:00 PM PT at Staples Center. Watch it on NBC Sports California, Bally Sports West, or

Morning Skate

Brent Burns may not be having a Brent Burns-like offensive season – he has five goals and 16 assists through 36 games – but as Bob Boughner pointed out today, he’s been an unsung hero in other areas of the ice.

“He’s been playing great. Sometimes, I don’t think he gets the credit of how well he’s played defensively, him and Mario [Ferraro] against the top lines,” Boughner said. “One of the reasons why we’ve been a better team of late is how we played defensively and those two guys have drawn that assignment every night.”

Unlike Erik Karlsson, whose overall usage has tapered off dramatically – since his Feb. 27 return from a groin injury, Karlsson has clocked 21:58 Time On Ice (TOI) Per Game, well below the 25:36 that he averaged before then – Burns has soldiered on, averaging over 25 minutes a game.

Burns’s 26:26 TOI Per Game ranks third in the league behind Drew Doughty and Thomas Chabot. His 2:56 Short-Handed Per Game paces the San Jose Sharks.

Also underscoring Burns’s defense-first usage, he’s not getting his customary rate of Offensive Zone Faceoffs. Per Natural Stat Trick, since Feb. 27, at 5-on-5:

PlayerGPOff. Zone Faceoffs/60Def. Zone Faceoffs/60Off. Zone Faceoff %
Erik Karlsson192217.3255.95
Nikolai Knyzhov1920.2717.4153.81
Radim Simek1915.8717.148.15
Marc-Edouard Vlasic1914.6616.2947.37
Brent Burns1913.9418.0943.52
Mario Ferraro1912.8917.8341.95

Boughner is clearly favoring Karlsson and his partner Nikolai Knyzhov for OZ faceoffs. In my opinion, this is Boughner sheltering Karlsson, who also hasn’t been deployed on the penalty kill since Feb. 27. Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Burns isn’t afforded similar protection.

How does this recent stretch compare to Burns’s past rate of Offensive Zone Faceoffs?

SeasonTeamOff. Zone Faceoffs/60Def. Zone Faceoffs/60Off. Zone Faceoff %

I didn’t include 2012-13 and 2013-14 because Burns was playing forward in those years.

But it’s striking: From 2015-19, the height of the Peter DeBoer/Burns partnership, which resulted in a 2017 Norris Trophy and three Norris Trophy finalist finishes, Burns was averaging 21.75 OZ Faceoffs Per 60 at 5-on-5. That led the San Jose Sharks, and naturally, that’s how you’d use an offensive whirlwind like Burns.

This season, Burns is averaging more than seven less OZ Faceoffs Per 60.

That’s going to affect your offensive production, and yes, your shot averages.

And before you blame Boughner for this counterintuitive usage, consider his choices: He’s sheltering Karlsson for a reason and Marc-Edouard Vlasic has declined sharply. So between Mario Ferraro’s emergence and Burns’s continued prowess – Burns may not be Norris-caliber anymore, but he’s still a really, really good blueliner all over the ice – the San Jose Sharks bench boss is working with what he has.

“He’ll always be that guy to get his points,” Boughner said of Burns, “but I’m proud of how he’s played defensively.”

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