Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?

Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?
November 11, 2011, 5:47 pm
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SAN JOSE During the majority of Thursday nights win over the Minnesota Wild, the Sharks used a couple of new defense pairs.

Brent Burns skated with Colin White, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic was paired with Justin Braun. A quick look at the scoresheet says that the new pairs allowed Sharks coach Todd McLellan to balance out his minutes among the six blueliners, as they all played between 13:36 (White) and 22:08 (Vlasic) if you dont include time on the power play.

Heres the complete time on ice breakdown among the six against the Wild, again, taking out power play time.

Douglas Murray: 19:54
Colin White: 13:36
Dan Boyle: 18:07
Marc-Edourard Vlasic: 22:08
Justin Braun: 16:02
Brent Burns: 15:27

The end result, of course, was a good one. The Sharks held the Wild to just one goal and 22 shots, although Minnesota does score the second fewest goals-per-game in the NHL.

McLellan had been mixing things up a bit for portions of the win against Los Angeles on Monday, and explained his reasoning behind it.

We tinkered with it a few games ago, said the coach. Whitey and Brent Burns are both very big men and both veteran guys who can play against anybody, whether its a grinding line or offensive line. Vlasic and Braun continue to play real well. We like that.

We know were not going to finish the year with pairs that are stuck together. Were going to have to break them up. They do get stale. Right now, we like what we see.

One interesting take from that time-on-ice breakdown is that Burns and White saw less ice than their teammates during even-strength and shorthanded situations. Brauns strong play since he was recalled early in the season from Worcester has something to do with that.

In fact, Burns saw a season-low in ice time with 19:34 total - three minutes below his season average. Braun's ice time against Minnesota, on the other hand, was 19:23, just two seconds off his season high set the previous game vs. Los Angeles and two-and-a-half minutes above his average.

Now, that's not to say that Braun is cutting into anyone's ice time. Burns, of course, gets lots of time on the power play. It does mean that Braun is allowing the minutes to be more balanced out among the six defensemen in general.

McLellan gave a glowing review of the 24-year old after Thursdays morning skate.

We had hoped that some of those players (recalled from Worcester) could come in and steal jobs and take jobs away, and Brauny has been one of them. Hes forced some players out of the lineup because of his good play, and theres absolutely nothing wrong with that in my mind. Its a great thing to have in your organization and very healthy. His minutes have gone up because hes earned them. Hes a hell of a good young d-man.

Theres also a distinct difference between last years version of Braun and the one everyone is seeing now.

He feels like he fits in here now and should be playing. Last year he hoped he should play, said McLellan. Hes very confident and understands the league more. He understands his opponent a lot more and has played against a lot of these players and understands their tendencies. And, hes a lot more familiar with what were doing as a team and system-wise.

I feel very good about moving him all over the place.