VANCOUVER – Scrappy Vancouver Canuck forward Alex Burrows is the sandpaper to Daniel and Henrik Sedins’ polish.
The Swedish twins can be like watching ballet. Burrows is slam dancing. The Sedins leave defencemen spinning. Burrows bowls them over.
It’s the differences that has helped Burrows find his place with the Sedins on the Vancouver Canucks’ top line. This year, Burrows wants to have that success spill over to the NHL playoffs.
“I don’t think we are going to change anything,” Burrows said after the Canucks practised Tuesday. “We are going to try to play the way we played all year. That’s the way we are going to approach it individually.
“That’s how we’ve been successful all year. It’s been different guys stepping up. Why change a winning recipe?”
The top-seeded Canucks will be looking for some redemption when they open their Western Conference quarter-final series against the eighth-place Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday (CBC, 10 p.m. ET.) The defending Stanley Cup champion Hawks have eliminated Vancouver from the second round of the playoffs the last two years.
One of the things the Hawks have done well against Vancouver is get in the Canucks’ heads. Burrows is one of the players guilty of losing his cool and taking undisciplined penalties.
“We have learned from our mistakes in the past,” said Burrows. “Some of those mistakes are being a little too emotionally involved.
“We want to control our emotions. We want to make sure we do what we’ve been doing all year and that’s playing the right way.”
Game 2 will be Friday in Vancouver before the best-of-seven series returns to Chicago for matches Sunday and Tuesday.
Recent playoffs haven’t been kind to Burrows.
The left-winger from Pincourt, Que., managed just three goals and six points in 12 games last spring’s playoffs while struggling with an injured shoulder. The year before, a healthy Burrows had three goals and an assist in 10 playoff games.
“I feel a lot better than last year,” said Burrows. “Hopefully, knock on wood, it will stay the same way.”
Burrows has proven to be the piece missing from the puzzle of who can be the Sedins’ linemate. His physical play has been the compliment to the brother’s smooth skating and seeing-eye-passes.
“He does everything,” said centre Henrik Sedin, who won last year’s scoring title with 112 points and was named the league MVP.
“He gives us the puck where we want it. He gets open where he thinks he’s gong to get it back. It’s just reading off each other.”
Right-winger Daniel Sedin won this year’s scoring race with a career-high 41 goals and 104 points.
The Sedin twins seem to have a mental telepathy on the ice. Trying to get on their wavelength has been difficult for other wingers. Burrows seems to have found the frequency.
“We make different plays but he is a guy that can read those things,” said Henrik, the Canucks captain. “Even though we might do something he’s never seen before, he’s still able to catch up really fast.
“That’s a unique thing for him.”
Chicago defenceman Brian Campbell said Burrows is underrated by some teams.
“He’s a very skilled player,” he said. “Maybe he wasn’t put in that mould early in his career.
“You have to have special qualities and not change your role. A lot of times guys go and play on top lines. They are good muckers but try and play a finesse game and it doesn’t work. He is true to his game and that’s why he has had success with those guys.”
Burrows is usually approachable and talkative in the dressing room. But on the day before the playoffs started he was irritable and spoke mostly in cliches.
He snapped when asked about meshing with the Swedish brothers.
“I’ve answered that a 100 times,” Burrows said. “I have to get them the puck and let them do their magic.”
Burrows missed the first 10 games of the season after undergoing summer shoulder surgery. In 72 games he had 26 goals and 22 assists for 48 points.
Last season Burrows had career highs with 35 goals, 32 assists and 67 points.
The six-foot-one, 199-pound Burrows always played a physical game. He also was one of the league’s top trash talkers.
This year Canuck management told Burrows and centre Ryan Kesler to keep their mouths shut and concentrate on playing hockey.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault credits both players with heeding the message.
“Both those guys have really tried to focus on playing whistle to whistle,” said Vigneault.
“I think we have seen throughout the season they have laid off the referees. They’re just focused on playing the game. That has helped their game and helped our team.”
The Canucks have enjoyed the best season in franchise history. Vancouver finished first overall with a 54-19-9 record for 117 points. The Canucks led the league in scoring with 262 goals and allowed the least in 185.
Burrows knows the year will only be judged a success if the Canucks bring the Stanley Cup home to Vancouver.
“It’s nice to set the table to play well,” he said. “Tomorrow is the biggest game.
“We are going to try to win that, learn from what happened, then move on to the second game.”