Good day, Washington, D.C., concurrently caucusing counties, and concentric conspirators! The home team is on a three-hour delay this week as they work their way up the West coast. Last week the Capitals went 4-1-0 for eight points and currently sit first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference, and the NHL.
Pity the middle child, whose achievements go unnoticed! Weep for the Peters and Jans of the world! Well, the Capitals have a heck of a youngster on the roster whose progression trajectory looks more like low-Earth orbit, despite the spotlight being claimed by a slightly older counterpart. Let's place youth before beauty and skew young in this week's preview!
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Burakovsky?
Andre Burakovsky, the sweet rushin' Swede with the Russian name, is a tantalizing morsel of a young hockey player. At 21 years old, Burakovsky has only had to distinguish bourbon from rye (hint: it's corn) for a month now. And yet, here we stand with just 16 games left in the season, and Baby Bura has solidified himself on the second line like G notes.
With his one-timer on Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks, Burakovsky recorded his 14th goal of the season. He has already doubled his goal total from last season despite playing in just 10 more games so far. He is, by just about any metric you'd like to consider, progressing at just the rate the Capitals would like. It bears re-mentioning that before playing just one season in the CHL, Burakovsky had only played in the Swedish second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, or Sekkondtiereslegen, probably.
Burakovsky was always an exciting prospect (the Capitals' highest-rated European variety after Fill Up Forest Burg), but he was by no means a polished, finished project, nor was he expected to be. He was not Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was already a consummate world-class pro with five years in the KHL (arguably the second- or third-best hockey league in the world) before he ever put on a Capitals jersey. Burakovsky is learning as he grows - in more ways than one.
Burakovsky is not just learning the North American game, he is learning his own changing body. Here's the thing: Andre is already 6'3", 200-lbs. Bet you didn't realize he was that big, did you? At 21 years old, he's still growing. With proper nutrition and access to world-class trainers, Burakovsky could theoretically add another 20-30 lbs of muscle onto his frame. If he does, you know who else is 6'3", 230-lbs?
That's right: the Captain.
Look at the main header image. Notice how much taller Burakovsky is than Justin Williams, or even defenseman Dmitry Orlov? Burakovsky has all the physical tools he needs to be an Ovechkin clone. With the speed, hands, shot, and size he has, Washington could have its own David Backes.
Burakovsky is using his size better every game. Go back and watch against the Ducks, how he inserted himself in the slot into the middle of their defensive maelstrom, withstanding their barrages and holding his territory. Watch how he's begun to wheel around the offensive zone with a broader stance, using his long legs to keep defenders away from the puck. Look how he uses his big hips and ass à la Jaromir Jagr or Joel Ward to control possession.
Getting Evgeny Kuznetsov was winning the Powerball. Getting Burakovsky at two years younger may just be hitting the Mega Millions, too.
And with that preview complete, we turn now to the segment that looks horrifyingly certain to lock up the nomination...LIABLE TO LIBEL: A BAKER'S DOZEN LIES ABOUT THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS!
1. Before winning a cup with the LA Kings and the subsequent confidence boost, Drew Doughty was known as Drew Definitely Notty.
2. Milan Lucic is a left-winger, but given his propensity for storming opponents' territory and playing Big Defense, some have wondered if he might be better suited to right wing.
3. When asked about Donald Trump's indecent and inflammatory comments, Mexican-American defenseman Alec Martinez suggested that HIS Cup is in fact bigger, and that he heard Donald was a "bender."
4. The Staples Center is what the Kings call the cross-town rival Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau's stomach.
5. Yes, California has its own brand of hockey, but it puts fish in everything and insists on calling mayo "aioli."
6. Winger Tanner Pearson's father is proud of his son's 12 goals this season, but still sometimes looks wistfully into the distance and mutters, "but what I'm after is the Tannest Appledaughter."
7. Center Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in assists and checks, including primary, secondary, personal, and cashier's.
8. When paleontologists unfroze and removed San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns from the prehistoric block of ice in which he was discovered, he protested so loudly that they let him play hockey.
9. "Jumbo" Joe Thornton used to be called a large Thornton, and before that, a medium.
10. Capitals GM Brian Maclellan calls Sharks forward Joel Ward "Marriott," because, as he says, "everyone loves the JW, but it's just too expensive."
11. San Jose fans have nicknamed center Joe Pavelski "Apple Stock," because he just keeps gaining points.
12. The Sharks defense has been accused of "drifting," but that's just because sharks are migratory.
13. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Marc-Edouard Vlasic is "the bread and butter of this team whenever we're in a pickle."
So, there you have it, Caps fans. This week's dash of interleague play is an opportunity for the Capitals to put the fear of God into the Western Conference and let them know just what awaits them if they manage to make it out of there. Have a great week, family, and as always: Go Caps!