VANCOUVER – Alex Burrows is sinking to a new low these days, but his coach is not likely to complain.
While the Vancouver Canucks winger is again proving to be consistent offensively, he is also trending toward a career low in penalty minutes.
“Last year, that’s where it all started,” said Burrows. “This year is just following up on that. We’ve showed we’re a much better team when we play five on five. I’ve been told and I feel I’m a better factor if I’m on the ice (rather) than in the penalty box.”
Burrows has recorded eight points (five goals, three assists) over Vancouver’s past six games and has helped the Canucks (22-12-2) move into first place in the Northwest Division.
Burrows, who has 23 points (14-9) in 34 games, has just 24 penalty minutes on the season. He’s on pace to finish below last season’s total of 77.
“I’m really happy that the team is winning right now,” said Burrows. “That’s all I care about. The other (offensive) stuff, it’s all about bounces and having a proper work ethic. If you do the right things, you’ll get some of the bounces going your way sooner than later.”
The Canucks, who are preparing to meet the Sharks in San Jose on Wednesday for the start of a three-game California road trip, have won 13 of their past 17 games. Burrows chalked up his disciplined play to a strong desire to get back to the Stanley Cup final after the Canucks lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins last spring.
“You want to win a Stanley Cup and want to win as a team,” said Burrows. “You’ve got to do some things sometimes to have a better team and get better results. Last year was a step in that direction and it showed in how much success we had. We’re following it up this year and hopefully we get one more win at the end of the year.”
Burrows has a well-established reputation as an agitator but has still managed to reduce his penalty minutes substantially over the past few seasons. The reduced time in the box continues a trend that began after he racked up 179 penalty minutes in 2007-’08.
“If the result is going to win more wins to the team, it’s not difficult at all,” he said of his more disciplined play.
Centre Ryan Kesler said Burrows is sticking to a team plan to cut down on penalties.
“It’s been our team mindset this year,” said Kesler. “We’ve been doing a good job with that.”
There is still room for improvement though. Entering Tuesday night’s games, only five teams have more penalty minutes than Vancouver’s total of 183, which works out to 14.4 minutes per game.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Burrows—who plays on the power play and kills penalties—is doing a good job of avoiding scrums after the whistle.
“The only thing we talked about since last year with Alex was to try to focus on playing whistle to whistle,” said Vigneault. “Play assertive but play whistle to whistle. He does that and he tries to be disciplined at the same time.”
Meanwhile, a league spokesman confirmed the NHL will not hold a hearing for Vancouver winger Dale Weise or issue a suspension following his charging major and game misconduct for a hit on Edmonton’s Alex Plante on Monday. Plante was carrying the puck in the Oilers’ zone when he and Weise collided.
Plante lay on the ice for a few minutes after the hit. He was guided to the dressing room with a towel covering cuts on his face.
Oilers coach Tom Renney accused Weise of having no other intention than to nail Plante and called for a suspension. But Vigneault took exception to Renney’s comment, contending players understand livelihoods are at stake and do not deliberately attempt to injure opponents.
After Wednesday’s meeting with the Sharks, the Canucks will visit the Ducks in Anaheim on Thursday and close out the trip Saturday in Los Angeles against the Kings.