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Bura’s Gotta Bury

A look at the postseason struggles of one of the Caps’ most skilled forwards.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Burakovsky has now skated in 32 NHL playoff games in his young career. In those games he’s scored three goals, and added another three assists (one of which came on the power play)... which means the guy who has the team’s 3rd best points-per-60 rate over the last two years (behind only Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom) is completely drying up just when the team needs him most.

To help drive home the severity of that dropoff, here is a list of regular-season comparables from this year to Burakovsky’s career playoff production. Tom Wilson for scale.

data via Corsica

With all due respect to that grouping of forwards, underindexing to the precedent set by guys like Cody McLeod and Lawson Crouse is not what you want to see from the guy who’s been one of the most efficient producers on the second and third-most prolific offenses in the League during the last two regular seasons.

Of course, by no means has Burakovsky’s play been poor. According to Corsica, Focusing on the current tournament, Burakovsky’s 66% CF paces not only his team, but the entire League. It’s also not for lack of trying. Burakovsky’s ~22 individual shot attempts/60 is second only to Alex Ovechkin on the team, and slots in at eighth among all NHL participants. Coming into last night’s game, Burakovsky ranked 16th in the League in xiG (Corsica), a metric used to understand how many goals an individual should expect to have based on the quality and volume of the shots he’s taken. Yet he’s got none.

Bura’s not alone in terms of going to a dry well this postseason, either. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (40), and Max Pacioretty (46) are fellow forwards who have accumulated more shot attempts than Burakovsky’s 33 without finding paydirt. Of note, Dmitry Orlov (38) and John Carlson (42) have also both taken more five-on-five shot attempts than Burakovsky with nothing to show for it.

Before we look at what’s going on with Burakovsky’s shot attempts, let’s establish some baselines — what are the other guys who have fired the pill > 30 times this postseason doing.

data via Corsica

So, guys are hitting the net on a bit fewer than half their attempts, and those instances when they fail to hit net are more often the result of a blocked shot than a plain miss. Alright, now let’s add Bura in.

data via Corsica

What we see is that Burakovsky is involving the opposing team’s goaltender on a lower percentage of shots than you’d hope, and that’s mostly driven by an above average percentage of missed shots. Yeah...hit the net! In fact, it’s somewhat surprising that Burakovsky’s missing the net, given where his shots have generally been coming from; his average shot distance is the shortest on the squad.

data via Corsica

The data here is admittedly small and volatile, but that’s actually important. Playoff series are too short for predictive metrics to, well, predict. The efficiency with which a team can convert its chances has the power to swing a series. See: the first and second games of the Caps’ current series.

Burakovsky’s certainly not the sole receptacle for blame, but on a line with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson, Burakovsky is clearly the most likely candidate to drive production. The numbers show that Burakovsky is being given, and creating, plenty of opportunity. With his team down a game to a hated rival, beginning to convert on the smallest bit of that opportunity is going to go a long way towards furthering his squads’ chances of tasting the conference finals.