Maybe it was Barry Trotz’s way of motivating his 20-year-old rookie. More likely, he was just answering a question as honestly as he could.
On Tuesday, when asked about Andre Burakovsky, Trotz gave this assessment:
“He doesn’t have that man strength yet. He’s still got that boy strength.”
Tell that to fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, who may still have whiplash after seeing – or not seeing – Burakovsky’s wicked wrist shot whiz by his blocker with 3:31 remaining in the second period of Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Rangers.
Or go tell that to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who chased Burakovsky about 150 feet down the ice, only to see his boy strength beat Lundqvist with an authoritative backhand move.
“He’s bigger than he looks,” said Capitals right wing Tom Wilson, who lives with Burakovsky in a three-man bachelor pad shared by Michael Latta. “He’s got some weight to him and he’s a strong kid. He likes to chirp at me and run away but when we wrestle, he’s a strong kid.”
A healthy scratch at the start of the playoffs, Burakovsky said he wanted to prove to Trotz that he belonged on the ice and not in the stands and he did that Wednesday night.
On his first goal, Burakovsky found open space in the slot and instead of passing to a wide-open Troy Brouwer on his left, he fired a bullet past Lundqvist.
“I opened up for the one-timer, so maybe I was a good decoy,” Brouwer said. “He scored, which is all that matters. I did tell him, though, that if he didn’t pass he better score.”
Burakovsky said he never considered passing.
“I was right in the middle, so it would have been kind of crazy if I didn’t take a shot there,” Burakovsky said.
On their first shift of the second period the Killer Bs struck again. Brouwer blocked a shot by McDonagh, springing Burakovsky free on a breakaway. at the Rangers' offensive blue line, allowing Burakovsky to break in alone on Lundqvist. Burakovsky shielded the back-checking McDonagh and beat Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.
“[Brouwer] kicked the puck to me and I was trying to take it to the middle,” Burakovsky said. “I saw that Lundqvist was kind of low and I was just trying to go over his pad.”
Burakovsky was showered with cheers and they continued later in the period when he blocked a shot inside the Capitals’ defensive blue line and hobbled to the bench.
“We’re sacrificing our bodies to get the win,” he said, referring to 25 blocks by the Caps, including six by Brooks Orpik, five by Karl Alzner and four by Matt Niskanen. “No matter how much it hurts, it always feels good inside to block a shot.”
Call it man strength.