It’s not like Alex Burrows will get an honorary Swedish passport.
As Henrik Sedin pointed out, they have rules for that sort of thing.
But an honorary Sedin? He’ll wear that for the rest of his career.
In 2009, out of desperation, Alain Vigneault shocked Burrows by tapping him to play with the twins. The Sedins were struggling, and the team was clawing its way out of a hole they had dug with eight straight losses.
The coach has always called it luck. But what was really lucky is that Burrows scored in that first game.
If he hadn’t, Henrik might still be a ways away from breaking Markus Naslund’s record.
“He could have been gone,” Henrik said.
“Other guys who were put on our line, they get a game or two and then they are out again. But he scored the first game. We went on a run. And he’s been there ever since.”
Three years later, Henrik got his historic assist. It was a symbolic one, too.
As he cut into the offensive zone along the boards Friday, he sliced a pass through the slot and around a landfill of Dallas Stars’ sticks. The pass caught Burrows on the fly, like a quarterback leading his wide receiver on a slant.
Burrows tapped it in. The crowd erupted. Yes, Henrik passed Naslund as the team’s all-time points leader. But also he reminded people just how much Burrows has changed Sedins’ dynamic over the years.
He improved them defensively. He created turnovers. He made them more dangerous. He made them better.
Henrik went from 82 points to 112.
“If you look at our first couple of years, the only thing we did was dump it in and create things off the cycle,” Henrik said.
“Since he came on the line, we started to create a lot more off the rush. That came from him being a great defensive player. And us paying more attention to that side of the game, too.
“We create turnovers and we have 3-on-2s.”
Burrows still vividly remembers the first game in February 2009. Rick Bowness leaned into his space on the bench.
“He said, ‘Burr, you’re going with the twins,’” Burrows said. “I was like, ‘Really? What am I going to do?’
“It turned out we won that game, and I scored a goal. I maybe fantasized that it could work, but I didn’t really think it would. Not to this degree. I never thought it would be this long.”
Burrows has long enjoyed seeing the Sedins get their due. He relished in the dense, chill-inducing ovation the Rogers Arena crowd lavished Friday on Henrik.
In fact, his favourite moment playing on the top line was the last game of the 2009-10 season. It was the game Henrik shredded the Calgary Flames with four assists, beating out Alex Ovechkin for the Art Ross Trophy.
“He’s made my career a lot more glorious than I made his,” Burrows said. “He’s a great player. He’s even a better person.
“But I’ll never forget that Calgary game. He was battling Ovechkin for the scoring title. And he went out and had a four-point night, finishing it off with that backhand pass between his legs to Danny, who then tipped it in with a between-the-legs shot of his own.”
It was a wow moment and maybe the most jaw-dropping goal the twins have ever scored.
But what it meant — a scoring title for Henrik — never could have happened without Burrows.
“Originally, anyone playing with the twins had a good chance of getting points, and a good chance of getting goals,” Vigenault said. “But can they sustain it? Can they make the [Sedins’] game better?
“The best I’ve found since I’ve been here is Alex. He’s the best player to help their game out — to help them out offensively and help them out defensively.
“You have to have hockey sense. I think Alex would say it’s pretty easy to play with those guys — ‘Put your stick on the ice and they find it.’
“But there’s a lot more to it. When to stay in front of the net. When to get involved in the cycle. When to back away, when they are both deep.
“It might be a low-percentage play they’re trying but you have to give those players an opportunity to see if they can’t make something out of nothing.
“To do that, they have to have confidence there’s somebody on the ice who is going to back them up defensively.
“Alex can do those things.”
He’s done them better than anyone.
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