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Five on the Fly: Brent Burns chasing history whether he cares or not

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Each week at Five on the Fly we’ll preview developing storylines for the NHL’s upcoming week, and take a look at who’s hot and who’s not.

More on Brent Burns Historic Season

Can Brent Burns become the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy since Bobby Orr in 1974-75? Before you think we’re crazy, realize that Burns is just two points behind Connor McDavid in the NHL’s scoring race after his two-point effort on Sunday against the Devils. Is Burns thinking about catching McDavid? “No, not really,” he said on Sunday with a laugh and a shrug.

Coach Peter DeBoer isn’t worried about the streak either but he is happy to have Burns as a leader on his team. “We needed a spark and he’s been there all year,” he said of Burns’ effort on Sunday. “He’s a fearless player. He walks the line under pressure and has a fearlessness offensively to him that is hard to teach and really separates great players from other guys.”

Even if Burns doesn’t catch McDavid, he does have a chance to become just the sixth NHL defenseman to average a point per game since the 1996-97 season.

All of it has made Burns a lot of fans this season. But not everybody is a Burns convert. Check out the reaction from this linesman to Burns during Sunday’s game at New Jersey. Maybe he hates the beard?

 

Andy’s Back, With a Bang

Craig Anderson made his triumphant return to the crease in Ottawa on Saturday and the 35-year-old hit the ground running by blanking the New York Islanders 3-0. The shutout is Anderson’s fourth in just 20 games played this season, which is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Anderson has been so stellar this season while simultaneously dealing with the illness of his wife, Nicholle, who is undergoing treatment for a rare form of throat cancer. Anderson and family have a lot on their plate this season, and any success garnered on the ice is gravy.

After completing his first start since Dec. 5 Anderson was serenaded by cheers of Andy! Andy! Andy! after being named the No.1 star of the game. Though his availability has been limited this season, some are already sounding the Anderson for Masterton Trophy winner bells – we’re in.

Anderson’s save percentage of 0.927 is tied for second among goalies with 20 games or more, but more importantly, his inspiring story is helping all hockey fans put things in perspective. Hockey is just a game. Something much more serious is going on at the Anderson home.

Kudos to the Andersons, and kudos to the Senators organization for letting their goalie have the time he needs to care for his wife in a time of serious need.

“The city of Ottawa, the organization, it’s just been a dream come true the way they’ve handled everything and allowed me to be a husband and be dad,” Anderson told TSN after the win over the Islanders. “Family first, and they’ve really hammered that home, and I can’t thank the city and the organization enough.”

 

Blues thriving under Mike Yeo  

New coach, new life? That appears to be the case in St. Louis. The struggling Blues had allowed five or more goals in the 21 games prior to Ken Hitchcock’s firing. Since then they have allowed eight goals in six games and won five of six. Turns out that Mike Yeo has made some adjustments that are helping to simplify the defense.

According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Yeo has tinkered with Hitchcock’s newly implemented man-on-man defensive zone coverage schemes, reverting to more zone coverage. He’s also changed the way defensive pairings handle puck retrieval, calling for more support and communication by partners.

“It’s just simplified, that’s the best term to put it,” Allen told Rutherford. “It’s a simplified defensive system that worked for us, and it’s worked in the past and we tried to change it to man-on-man this year, and it just was a bit of a chaos.”

It will be interesting to see if the newfound defensive prowess is sustainable. If it is, will St. Louis emerge as a team that is capable of another deep playoff run in the Western Conference?

Oilers need Lucic to start producing again

Milan Lucic signed a juicy seven-year, $42 million deal to come and be a part of the Oilers revival this season. Well, the Oilers are revived thanks to Connor McDavid and a vastly improved defense, but Lucic has been struggling mightily, particularly at 5-on-5. He’s putting up less than a point per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, which is a serious drop-off from the previous four years.

Lucic has not scored an even strength goal since early December, a span covering 28 games, and he’s struggling to make any impact when not paired with Connor McDavid. When without McDavid, Lucic is a negative possession player whose team scores just 32 percent of the 5-on-5 goals. With McDavid, the story shifts.

It definitely begs the question: Is Lucic capable of being the type of producer that Edmonton wants when he’s not with McDavid?

Last year in Los Angeles he was with Jeff Carter or Anze Kopitar most of the time. In his last three seasons in Boston he spent time with David Krejci, Nathan Horton, David Pastrnak and Jarome Iginla. How can Todd McLellan make things work for the big man in Edmonton?

Trending: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not?   

Hot: T.J. Oshie has a 41.2 shooting percentage in his last 10 games, going 7-3-10 on 17 shots in that span.

Not: Matt Duchene may be highly coveted by most NHL teams, but he has not scored a goal for his current team in ten games now.

Hot: Braden Holtby has won 14 consecutive games, which leaves him three shy of the all-time record for a single-season winning streak by a goaltender.

Not: Winnipeg has gone 3-6 at home since January 1, allowing 33 goals in that span.

Hot: Patrik Berglund has six goals in his last six games for the Blues.

Not: Flyers’ sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is a minus-15 with zero goals in his last 29 games.

Hot: Chris Krieder has surpassed his career-high goal total with 22, in just 49 games.

Not: The Flyers have the NHL’s worst 5-on-5 third period shooting percentage. They have managed 19 5-on-5 goals in the third period, while allowing 39.

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