Saturday, September 6, 2014

Returning Winterhawk Profile: #1 Brendan Burke

(Editors note: There is 15 days until the season opener for Portland on September 19th. Over those days, I will be looking at one returning Hawk a day).

First up ( in numerical fashion) is #1 Brendan Burke

Born: 3/11/1995
Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ
Position: Goalie
How Acquired: 3rd Round Bantam Draft Pick (49th overall) in 2010.


-2011/12: 18 Games Played (GP), 3.58 Goals Against Average (GAA) and 0.875 Save %.
-2012/13: 33 GP, 2.65 GAA and 0.908 Save %.
-2013/14: 48 GP, 2.75 GAA and 0.911 Save %.

NHL Drafted: Arizona Coyotes 6th Round (163rd overall) in 2013. He is currently unsigned.

-Burke enters his second season as the Winterhawks go-to starting Goaltender. Though he has many detractors, I believe he has improved in each of the 3 years he has spent in a Winterhawks sweater. His numbers over the last 2 seasons were some of the best in the WHL, but he was also playing for teams that were stacked with talent. Burke, in his time in Portland, can really be seen in one of two lights and is very unique in that way. The root of this I believe is his playing style. He plays a stand up/butterfly style and is very large in his net (6'4" 190 lbs). This style works for him in that he covers a large part of the net and, due to his butterfly ability, he is great at saving pucks in the 2 and 4 holes (down at his feet). I constantly see his make great scrambling saves when opponents are trying to bang home rebounds down low. Despite the fact that this style is great at this, it means that if he wants to play aggressive and shut down a shooters angles, he has to make sure that his coverage of said angles is nearly perfect. This is really the crux of it for me. Burke has never consistently displayed the confidence necessary to be successful in playing this style. I have see him let a goal in and stay back in his net, letting shooters pick their angles. His glove hand will look fantastic on one shot, but after he's given up a couple weak goals, it will not be the same.

Despite this, last year he played a stretch from January 11th to February 1st (7 games) where he never allowed more than 2 goals and had 3 of his 4 shut outs on the year. Confidence is always an issue for Goalies, they are the most important players in this game we love, so they feel the weight of each loss on their shoulders, especially if the goals they gave up were of the weaker variety.

In order to have the 19 year old banner year that I know he has to expect and that the Arizona Coyotes will need from him in order to sign him, he has to improve at coming out of the net. One major difference between Mac Carruth and Burke, is that confidence necessary to make these saves. In the 2012 Western Conference Semi-Finals vs. Kamloops, Carruth had 2 straight abysmal performances in giving up 7 goals in games 5 and 6, forcing a game 7 in Portland. I never had a doubt about Carruth responding with a great performance in Game 7 due to the irrational confidence that is a large part of how he play. He pulled off a 2-0 shut out, eliminating the Blazers. Carruth had every reason to believe that he would fail in game 7, given how the last 2 games turned out, but he just chose not to believe that it would happen. I have yet to see this same irrational confidence from Burke.

Sure there are technique improvements that a 19 year old Goalie could make that would allow Burke (especially with his glove hand) to launch him to the next level, but to me the difference maker is improving his confidence.

-There is reason to believe that Burke's confidence did improve for this season, as he seemed to have a stellar U.S.A. Hockey World Juniors Evaluation Camp and should be a finalist at being in Goal for the WJC this year. He needs a solid season for the Hawks, though, by the time invites are handed out in order to make this dream come true though. He also had another prospects camp with Arizona, where his Dad: Sean Burke, the Goaltenders coach got to spend a lot of time coaching him. What will make it harder on him to get signed to an NHL contract and make the USA WJC team, is that Portland's defense has some growing pains ahead of themselves. Of the 6 Defensemen on the ice for Game 7 of the WHL Final last year, only 3 are back (Anton Cederholm, Layne Viveiros and Keoni Texeira). And these D-men definitely were not relied upon as much as Derrick Pouliot, Mat Dumba and Garrett Haar were for the Hawks last year.
Burke Replacing Boes

Even with these D-men in the lineup, Burke had an up and down playoff run last year, culminating in him getting pulled from net in game 2 of the Western Conference Final vs. Kelowna after giving up 3 goals on 9 shots. He did get put back in for Corbin Boes in Game 6 of the WHL Final and also played Game 7 for the Hawks. Him starting game 7 was probably more due to the way Boes was playing, then some belief that Coach Mike Johnston had that he would be the reason the Hawks would win game 7.

Again though, the Hawks look to be among the league's leaders in goals this season, as they are returning the #s 2 and 3 WHL season leaders from last year. However, this up temp play that creates this goal total, also leads to breakaways or 2 on 1s in the other direction. This means that even when Burke does not face a ton of shots, the quality of some of those shots will be high.

Sitting behind Burke this season is 18 year old Goalie Adin Hill, who is finally getting his chance to prove himself at the WHL level after playing fantastic in limited starts the past 2 seasons. Burke will be handed the starting gig and my guess is that he will given a lot of leeway at the start of the season.

Overall, Burke, now a year older, should show improvements on his angles and hopefully this will give him the confidence necessary to prove that he really does belong among the top goal stoppers in the WHL. Suffice it to say, the Hawks season really is relying upon him to take this next step forward.

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