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Andre Burakovsky: ‘I’m not even close’

(AP Photo / Nick Wass)
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WINNIPEG – Andre Burakovsky had plenty of time to reflect last week, when he was scratched for two games. After an impressive rookie season, 22 points in just 53 games, this year held so much promise for Burakovsky, the Washington Capitals’ youngest player. But instead, he’s entered a sophomore slump.

When he wasn’t in the lineup for two games, Coach Barry Trotz cautioned the 20-year-old about over-thinking and told him that he “can only control what he can control,” even pairing him with a coach to help him do that. He then put Burakovsky back into the lineup as the third-line right wing, and while Trotz has been pleased that Burakovsky has eliminated some mistakes, he can also sense Burakovsky’s frustration with the lack of point production.

“I think it’s going in the right direction, but there’s still a lot more to work on,” Burakovsky said. “I’m not really there yet, where I should be. Where I left off last year, I’m not even close. It’s something where I have to find a way back. I think after I’ve been scratched, I’ve been skating a lot better and managing the puck better, so those parts are good. Now, I just want to take it to the next level and do all of the stuff I’m good at.”

Burakovsky was third on the team last season in even strength points per 60 minutes with 1.69, trailing just Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But in 22 games this season, he has just six points, and he has one point in his last 15 games. His Corsi-for percentage was 54.6 last season; that’s dipped to 50.4.

Burakovsky said he hasn’t been able to beat opposing players one-on-one as he could last year. He said he hasn’t been as effective in taking the puck to the net. He was doing that in the middle of last season and then again in the playoffs, when he scored two goals against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He was confident then, so has that gone away?

“I don’t think I’ve lost confidence, it’s just that when you’re going really good, all of the stuff you’re trying to do is working for you,” Burakovsky said. “When you try to beat your guy one-on-one, when you’ve got a lot of confidence, you’re always going to do it. When you’re thinking a little bit too much, it’s harder. You don’t really beat your guy and you’re not really there because you’re a little bit more careful. That’s what I’m trying to get rid of.”

Said Trotz: “I think the only thing is that he continues to play the way he has been, it’s just getting some production. As a young player, they look at production. You know, ‘Did I produce? Did I score?’ He’s been a scorer all his life. I think that’s probably weighing on him. …

“For young guys, they think about what’s going wrong or whatever. But you can help in so many other ways, and I think he’s starting to recognize that. If he just keeps doing what he’s doing in terms of helping in the other areas, the offense will come. He’s too good of a player.”

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