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The man, the beard, the superstar

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The man, the beard, the superstar

Photo Courtesy of mark6mauno/Flickr

Photo Courtesy of mark6mauno/Flickr

Photo Courtesy of mark6mauno/Flickr

Christina Bleakley,
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The 6-foot-5, 230-pound defenseman for the San Jose Sharks is having one of the best seasons that any NHL defenseman has had in almost a decade. Brent Burns ended his 2015-16 regular season campaign with a league-leading 27 goals, second in the league with 48 assists, and second in total points with 75 for the regular season.

Finishing the Sharks’ record-breaking season, he was second-leading scorer among defenders, only to trail Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, who had a mind-blowing 82 points in 82 games.

With the San Jose Sharks on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup in their 25-Year franchise history, Burns is helping propel this team into a potential Cup winning organization. This once offensive-force is now an offensive-defensive force leading all defense in the NHL in points.

Burns was drafted into the league as a defenseman by the Minnesota Wild in 2005, but was moved up to a top-line power forward, and a quality one at that. But in recent seasons, he was moved back down to the blue line because they needed a bigger player on the point. He’s having a record-breaking season: his unique talent and style of play has propelled him to a top-tier defenseman.

Before switching to defense, Burns ended the 2013-14 season with 22 goals, 26 assists and a total for 48 points for the regular season. On defense the next season, he still managed to score 17 goals for the year, and started to emerge as an offensive-defenseman by putting up 43 assists and then a career high of 60 points to end that season.

This season, he blew all those numbers out of the water — or should I say, he broke the ice.

Just watch him. It’s not that he is this massive man, with an extra 15 pounds of beard — ok, I might be exaggerating a tad — but it’s the fact that he is at the center of everything on the ice. He doesn’t just dominate the plays around him, he is one of the biggest dominant players that the game has seen in recent seasons.

The list of players in NHL history that have reached this high level of play at two different positions isn’t a big one. Especially in this modern era of hockey, which is a faster, more offensive game: there are more offensive defensive players today then there were 10 years ago.

Dustin Byfuglien was also originally drafted in 2003 by the Chicago Blackhawks as a defenseman and slowly started to make an impact as a power forward during his time there. He was then shifted back to defense in Atlanta — a position where he has flourished for the formally known Atlanta Thrashers, now the Winnipeg Jets organization. Sergei Fedorov was one of the best two-way forwards of all-time in the NHL. But during the Scotty Bowman era in Detroit — where the Red Wings went on to win three Stanley Cups in six seasons — Bowman used him on the blue line as a defenseman for the Wings, and Fedorov was unstoppable. Over those six seasons he had a combined point total of over 300.

You’d be hard-pressed to find other players that have matched the same level of success.

Burns is now stitching together one of the most productive offensive-defensive seasons of any other player in recent league history. Through Game One of the Stanlely Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Burns is the third leading scorer among all players in the playoffs with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists), just trailing his teammates Logan Couture and Captain, Joe Pavelski by three points.

Burns has the most points by a defenseman regular season and playoff season combined since 1995-97 with 93 total points in 96 games.

The numbers don’t lie. Those 33 goals he has are the most, and as are his 93 points. He would be fourth in points per-game if this were 1995-97, with Bourque and Leetch playing, and also if Karlsson would have made into the playoffs. Then match that with his 401 shots on goal, only second behind Bourque’s 418 — there is no other defensemen that has had more than 312 shots on goal.

At this point in the season, you have to ask yourself: is he truly becoming a superstar with this year’s performance? The answer? Yes. Are the Sharks as a group having one of their best playoff-seasons in their 25 year franchise?

The answer? Yes.

The story usually goes that every season for the Sharks they seem to fall short. The goal of making it to a Stanley Cup final is just of reach.

However, during this 2015-16 playoff season, three out of the five top-point players are currently Sharks. The top three? All Sharks. The only defenseman to make that list? Brent Burns, who has helped his team make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

As the Sharks head into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, the team faces a huge task.

Teams that win Game 2 have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 73.3 percent of time since the Final has gone to a best-of-seven series format in 1939, according to the NHL.

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The man, the beard, the superstar