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Burns Heating Up, Sharks Keeping Calm & Carrying On



Credit: AP Photo/Tony Avelar

A debatable tripping call that led to a Detroit Red Wings 5-on-3 goal at the end of the period. A soft Adin Hill goal to begin the final frame. Down 2-1 at that point despite a 28-14 edge in shots. A dead octopus thrown at center ice in the middle of the play in overtime.

“We didn’t let anything frustrate us.”

Bob Boughner got that right.

“Sometimes, when you’re snake-bitten and things aren’t going, you get frustrated,” the San Jose Sharks head coach added. “But it didn’t rattle us tonight.”

That’s the mark of a winning team. And that’s what the Sharks are at the moment, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, in possession of the final Western Conference wild card playoff spot, and on pace for a surprising 91-point campaign.

Logan Couture credited Jeffrey Viel’s third period goal, scored just a minute and a half after Hill was ambushed by a long Nick Leddy shot, for “kind of [calming] everything back down” in an eventual San Jose 3-2 overtime victory.

The Sharks, considered dead in the water by many in pre-season prognostications, as recently as last week after being humiliated by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit on the road, find themselves very much alive and swimming in the playoff race.

“You just have to remain positive, find a way to keep going,” color man Dominic Moore said of the Sharks after the Leddy goal. It’s as simple and difficult as that.

Brent Burns, who’s assisted on the last six Sharks goals going back to Saturday in Philadelphia, cleverly manipulated time and space on the critical Viel goal.

A retreating Burns (88) corrals the loose puck near center ice. There are three Red Wings forecheckers — and two Detroit defensemen coming on for the change. Instead of giving up the puck quickly, Burns holds, retreats more, and even feints a D-to-D pass to partner Mario Ferraro (38).

“We got eye contact there,” Viel said. “I think he saw me and saw that they were making a change. We always want to play fast, play up the ice, but that was a great play.”

This might be where Burns spots Viel (63). You can see the slight turn of the head there from the San Jose Sharks defenseman.

But again, Burns stays patient, luring all three Wings forecheckers below the blueline. That creates a huge gap between the Detroit forecheck and defensemen.

This matters because by the time that Burns bullets a pass up to Viel, the Red Wings forecheckers are too far behind to help out on the Sharks winger.

“I just saw the D kind of flat-footed,” Viel said. “So I just tried to take it to the net and I got a bounce.”

Moritz Seider (53), who Viel beat to the outside, looked like he was caught flat-footed by the suddenness of Burns’s hard, no-look stretch pass. He also has no help because Burns separated the Detroit forecheckers and defensemen on purpose, giving Viel a chance to attack Seider one-on-one without any backcheckers buzzing from behind.

“He was making great plays with puck,” Logan Couture said of Burns.

This wasn’t the only one. Here’s another no-look stretch pass, this time to Tomas Hertl (48).

“Burnzie, he’s starting to find that other level of this game,” Boughner noted. “He’s done a lot of great things this year, but he’s still got a lot of offense in him.”

A lot has been made about Erik Karlsson’s renaissance campaign, and rightly so. But tonight was a reminder that the San Jose Sharks have another former Norris Trophy winner with plenty of life left.

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