The last time Alex Burrows scored a goal for Team Canada, he wasn’t wearing skates. Burrows was one of the best ball hockey players of all time, renowned for his offensive skill and on-ice vision, to the point that he was apparently called “The Goalmaker” by his ball hockey brethren.
On Friday morning, he made another goal happen, the first ever in his international career in ice hockey. In his first game since suffering a head injury against Slovakia, Burrows scored Canada’s first goal of the game, turning the tide against a Finnish team that was dominant early on home ice.
Burrows was the last forward added to the Canadian roster, likely for his ability to play a strong defensive role while still having solid offensive instincts and skill. He played both roles perfectly against Finland.
Since he was coming off an injury, Burrows played limited minutes, particularly early in the game. Since teams are allowed to dress 13 forwards and 7 defencemen in international play, Burrows rotated with Teddy Purcell and Andrew Ladd on a fourth line with Ryan O’Reilly. In addition, Burrows took the shortest shifts on Team Canada, averaging just 31 seconds per shift.
Burrows’ first shift didn’t come until 6 minutes into the game, after Finland opened the scoring on a Kyle Quincey turnover in the neutral zone. He took just a couple more shifts in the first period, skating briefly on the penalty kill and taking a start in the defensive zone that his line transitioned into a scoring chance that Burrows put wide of the net. He played just 1:30 in the first period and said in a first intermission interview on TSN that he “felt great.”
If that is all that came of this game for Burrows, Canucks fans could be thrilled that he was healthy and playing without any ill effects. But Burrows wasn’t done.
Down 2-0 after the first period, Team Canada needed a spark. Burrows came out with O’Reilly and Ladd, a line that could provide that spark with their physicality. Instead, O’Reilly sent the puck behind the net to Burrows, Ladd went hard to the net to take the defenceman out of the play, and Burrows wheeled out in front, unimpeded. Burrows made no mistake. His shot was perfectly placed, one foot off the ice, off the post, and in.
Unfortunately, the only available video is from TSN and their videos are not embeddable. You can see the goal starting at the 1:45 mark of the TSN highlight package.
We tend to reiterate Burrows’ humble beginnings a lot here on PITB, because his story is truly remarkable. He started as an undrafted ECHL player who starred in ball hockey during the off-season. He just scored a goal for Team Canada against Finland, last year’s World Champions and bronze medal winners at the 2010 Olympics.
Canada had major discipline issues in this game, taking 6 penalties. On one of them, Jussi Jokinen restored the 2 goal lead just 2 minutes after Burrows got Canada on the board. Canada tied up the game, however, by the end of the second period on goals from John Tavares and Jeff Skinner. Skinner’s goal was a beauty, as he got Kari Lehtonen down with a fake shot, before pulling the puck around the net with a backhanded wraparound.
Burrows ice time increased throughout the game as his puck pursuit and strong defensive play gave coach Brent Sutter plenty of reason to trust him. He played 2:55 in the second period, then 3:56 in the third, as Canada went up 4-3 on a one-timer from Evander Kane. Most importantly, Burrows was on the ice for 2 shifts with less than 2 minutes remaining to help seal the victory.
While Burrows played just 8:21, he was an essential part of Canada’s victory and showed that he belongs on the national team. With his strong performance at both ends of the ice, it seems likely that he’ll get more ice time throughout the rest of the tournament, particularly in tight games where his defensive responsibility will be highly prized.
Just to recap: Alex Burrows, who the rest of the NHL seems to see as an agitator who is just lucky to play with the Sedins, scored a fantastic goal for Team Canada.Tags: Alex Burrows, Burrows, Team Canada, World Championship