Much like the surprise ending of Life of Pi, there are often two stories: the one supported by facts, and the better, happier, easier to digest narrative (Oh, um… spoiler alert!). With that in mind, have a chew on the following little tale of the Canucks’ recent line shuffle.
I’ll admit it: I’ve been bitten by the Alex Burrows bug. Despite some antics that have made me want to pull my hair out, #14 has become my favourite Canuck. It’s not difficult to finger the moment when this took place: a last-minute-shorthanded-tie-breaking-game-winning-deke-to-the-backhand-shelf goal against the Carolina Hurricanes that famously chopped a 9-game losing streak. Mix in 2 overtime series-clinching tallies, heat for 4 years at $2 million per, drain off a Ron MacLean hatchet job, and you’ve got the makings of a fan favourite: a humble-rooted inexpensive French Canadian—the poutine of hockey players. So while most of the pundits are talking about Alain Vigneault’s decision to “promote” Mason Raymond to the “first line”, I am more interested in Burrows’ ostensible dive to the third line, where he’ll be teamed up with Sammy Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen.
Burrows hasn’t been quite as cool as the Sedins, notching 4 points in his last 8, so this demotion is obviously more about bringing Burrows’ scoring to the third line than hoping Raymond will kick-start the twins. After exerting a Svengali-like influence on Henrik and Daniel, leading his linemates in his coattails to back-to-back Art Ross trophies, perhaps his power over them has waned. This won’t be the first time AV has sought to kick-start the team by moving Burrows off the top line; in Game 7 of last season’s first round series against Chicago, he was reunited with Ryan Kesler. Burrows went on to open the scoring, draw a penalty shot, miss that shot, draw a penalty, give up the puck for the game-tying goal on the subsequent power play, take a penalty in overtime, watch helplessly from the box while Jonathan Toews set up Patrick Sharp for what looked sure to be a season-ending shot, survive that shot thanks to Roberto Luongo’s blocker, then steal the puck and score the series-winner and witness the birth of his first-born child the next day. Do that a few more times and you’ll shut up the stats nerds.
Back to reality: Kesler’s “AmEx” line with Chris Higgins and David Booth has been the team’s best in their recent drought, and it doesn’t make sense to mess with the chemistry they are developing. In the meantime, the third line hasn’t seemed as offensively dangerous since Cody Hodgson’s banishment to Mantua (notwithstanding Pahlsson’s game winner against the Jets that challenges this already-tenuous narrative).
Speaking of narratives unsupported by facts, here’s the point where I will bravely argue that clutchiness is a predictive property. In other words, I’m predicting that freed from the company of the slumping Sedins, Burrows will be clutchier than the dead puck era. Clutchier than Edward Norton on Meatloaf (yes, again). Clutchier than a direct-shift gearbox. Clutchier than a nightclub handbag. (Have we covered all our demographics?)
Want more narrative unsupported by facts? Burrows’ horoscope thinks he should make the most of this third line spot tonight as well:
An opportunity to explore new territory or ideas pops up today, and you’d be a fool not to take it. Your greatest energy is perfect for pushing through obstacles and finding what you need to find.
It goes without saying that “new territory” is the Pahlsson line, and the “obstacles” are Mike Smith’s big ol’ legs. Burrows may not validate everything his astrologer and I wrote, but wouldn’t it make a great story?