No saviour, but plenty of spark
Returning Burrows has everything team's been lacking - speed, desire and emotion
John Tortorella has seen the Canucks go from bad to worse in January, but with his team in desperate need of something, anything, to exorcise their lethargy, he wasn't particularly interested in conferring saviour status on Alex Burrows.
"It's not about new faces," Tortorella said before the Canucks met the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
"It's about guys who are responsible getting the job done. Forget about new faces. We need our top players to play better."
Which is true. For all the stories which have been written and rewritten about the Canucks this season, it's still pretty simple for this team. They'll go as far as the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo can take them.
Lately, the Sedins and Kesler haven't been very good, and Luongo has been out of the lineup with an injury.
You want an explanation why the Canucks have three points in their last nine games, there it is.
But this is also true. Burrows might have the Andrew Alberts' scoring line going this injury-plagued season - 0-3-3 in 17 games - but he returns to the lineup at a time when his unique combination of skill and abrasiveness is sorely needed.
Put it his way. The Canucks are flatlining. Burrows, at his best, can be a defibrillator.
True, he has a larger role to fulfil, but right now, the Canucks are in desperate need of the jolt he can provide.
"I think guys know what I can bring," Burrows said. "If I can bring intensity and energy, I hope that's contagious. I know when I woke up this morning I was really excited about coming to the rink. It kind of feels like a playoff game for me."
And even though it was Calgary in mid-January, it kind of felt like a playoff game for the Canucks.
With the team's lineup in an unsettling state of flux, the return of Burrows qualified as some sorely needed good news for the Orcans. Henrik Sedin is suffering from some manner of rib/back ailment - could this be the dreaded middle-body injury? - and was a gametime decision on Saturday night. Same with Luongo, who's close to coming back from an ankle thingy. Mike Santorelli, the team's Swiss Army knife, is out for a bit and the organization pressed Kellen Lain into his first NHL game on Saturday night.
And then there's Burrows. With two freak injuries under his belt, the Montrealer has had a worse year than Mike Duffy, but there's still something about Burrows that brings hope and promise. For starters, the third spot on the team's first line has been a wasteland in his absence.
Virtually everyone on the team not named Zack Kassian has been tried with the twins, and all have failed.
That, in turn, has left a hole the size of the Gobi Desert in the Canucks' attack, and with the twins puttering along at a 65-point pace, it's no freaking wonder the team has won one game in regulation this month.
"He means a lot to our lineup," said Daniel Sedin. "And to get a new guy can spark things."
But it goes deeper than that. Burrows' game is built on speed and emotion and those two elements have been conspicuous by their absence in the Canucks' game.
He makes the Sedins play with pace, and that makes them more dangerous on the rush and in the attacking zone. But he's also the guy who had to climb out of the Eastern League, the guy who'll do anything to win, and that combativeness has always been at the core of his game.
Yes, he can score. In a four-season span between 2008 and 2012 he averaged just under 30 goals a year and if he can give the Canucks some of that, it will go a long ways toward fixing their problems.
But it's the other stuff, that sense that if he has one bad shift he's going back to the Greenville Grrrowl, which might be more important.
We've seen the kind of impact he can make. The Canucks hope they can see it again.
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