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Jason Botchford: How Alex Burrows put the killer B in Baertschi


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“He looks 10 years younger,” Baertschi said.

Funny, because Baertschi looks a few years older these days.

Together they are the improbable pair of wingers who have become the engines driving Bo Horvat’s line.

One made it living out the blue-collar Canadian dream. Oozing with intangibles, Burrows’ road here was like a donkey pulling a cart filled with bottled sand, one with a highly underrated understanding of hockey.

Baertschi, on the other side, was blessed with gifts that come with labels like “skill” and “creativity,” the kind of gifts you need if you’re going to be a top-15 draft pick.

At certain points, both of their careers have been left for dead. To some, maybe even earlier this season.

 

Baertschi seemed to be suffering symptoms of a sophomore slump. Burrows’ condition was considered more severe, and there were those quietly wondering if all the miles he had gutted out churning up and down sheets of ice had caught up to him.

 

It turns out, Baertschi needed some luck — and Burrows some opportunity.

They also needed each other.

They got their chance three weeks ago, but only after a series of circumstances collided. Jannik Hansen was injured, so Brandon Sutter took his place on the top line. Jake Virtanen was sent to the minors and Willie Desjardins wasn’t left with many options other than promoting Burrows, who had been his fourth-line winger.

“You always like to say it was intuition, but I probably tried 30 other combinations before that one, so I really can’t say it was,” Desjardins said.

“I had Burrows playing with (Derek) Dorsett and (Brendan) Gaunce and I thought that line was a good line. But it just seems there’s a click with that (Burrows, Horvat and Baertschi) line.

“There is a common denominator and that’s they all love the game. They’re not happy just to play. They want to be a factor.”

It’s way too early to say their first game together turned the Canucks’ season around. But since then Horvat, Baertschi and Burrows have spent a 10-game run playing like they’re a first line.

 

Is it sustainable? Probably not, at least not at this level. But their collective, underlying data has been pretty telling.

Baertschi’s even-strength shot-attempt differential is 56.5 per cent playing with Burrows, and 43.5 per cent without. That’s the difference between feeling like you’re getting your head caved in every night, to feeling like you’re on top of a mountain about to cut into some fresh powder on a glorious bluebird day.

When they’re together, the Canucks are scoring 3.73 even-strength goals every 60 minutes. That would rank them 16th in the NHL, just behind Connor McDavid, whose Oilers are scoring at a 3.75-goals-per-hour clip when he’s on the ice at even strength.

An interesting element here is that when the three readied themselves to play their first game against the New York Rangers, they made a promise to each other.

Then they went out and delivered on it.

”Before the game, the three of us got together and we talked,” Horvat said. “We said, ‘We’re going to be the guys who change this. And we’re going to be the guys that do it playing the right way.’

“You know, keep the third guy high and do the little things right to help the team win.

 

Burrows went on to score two goals in that game to beat the Rangers. And in the 10 they’ve played since, the three have a combined 28 points.

It’s meant something of a revival for Burrows, and relief for Baertschi. The 24-year-old choked on too many scoring chances during his 13-game goalless streak to start the season.

Some lost confidence in him, and he was even left off the protected list on TSN’s exhaustive mock Las Vegas expansion draft exercise.

Baertschi, however, never panicked.

”I knew I was playing well and I was creating and that’s the only thing I need,” Baertschi said. “After a while, you’ll get Grade-A chances, and the chances you have to score on, and for a while there I had tons of chances every game and that was exciting for me.

“I knew eventually they would have to go in. Look at (Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild), one went off my shin pad and it goes the other way and in.

“Hockey is funny that way.”

But did the missed chances ever eat at him?

“Yeah, but I went through it last year,” Baertschi said, laughing. “Remember that? That was a little longer.

“But even in junior, there were times when you’re holding on to the stick too tight, and the puck just doesn’t go in.”

That hasn’t been a problem lately.

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40 minutes ago, Apple Juice said:

Can you please fix the way you copy and pasted the article? It's so hard to read

Glad it's not just me having issues. Kept feeling like I was skipping back to Baertschi saying "he looks 10 years younger" over and over.

 

And I'd be like, I just read that, didn't I? But on my little phone screen it's hard to tell. Maybe Botch is just repeating stuff for effect? But no, I've already read that part. And that part too. What's going on here?

 

Didn't know if my mobile browser was acting up or I was in some mini Groundhog Day time loop or if I was having a stroke or something. 

 

But yeah, nice positive article. I actually don't even mind reading it three times. ;) 

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The best thing that has happened in Vancouver to create chemistry? Coaching. No it isnt coaching, its been the injuries forcing tryamkin and stecher in the lineup. Injuries put Sutter on the Sedins line.  

The canucks are proving they have enough talent. When injuries give them no other options, they ice a winning team that scores on the powerplay. Weird.

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It's really cool how these past few wks have justified his current 4.5 mill cap, as well.

 

The past coupla' yrs have been a bumpy road. That old 2 mill x 4yr memory, was a glance at the beauty in the rear view, supposedly justifying the current pot-holes we were enduring. Poor Alex B..was bedeviled alternatively, by shoddy health, & a maniacal, taunting US coach(using the term loosely, for the nameless-one who avoided practice)!

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