Former Caps winger Andre Burakovsky ready to write his own story in Colorado

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DENVER — Colorado Avalanche winger Andre Burakovsky entered these Stanley Cup finals determined to write his own story.

Burakovsky, now four years removed from winning his first Stanley Cup with Washington, knew his past accomplishments in the District would be a popular talking point ahead of the finals. But, Burakovsky doesn’t want to talk about his past — he wants to focus on what’s ahead.

“It’s a new group; it’s a new opportunity … we want to write our own success,” Burakovsky said Tuesday. “Definitely feels kind of the same, super excited to be back in finals. It is the best time of the year. It is an unbelievable feeling. There is not a whole lot of people who reach the finals and to be here for a second time, it is something special for sure.”

Burakovsky was Colorado’s hero in Game 1 on Wednesday night at Ball Arena when he scored the game-winner only 83 seconds into overtime. The Avalanche face the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time defending Cup champions, in Game 2 on Saturday night in Denver.

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Burakovsky has had an up-and-down postseason. He was a healthy scratch for two games in the second round and was injured during the Western Conference finals. He took multiple maintenance days ahead of the Stanley Cup finals and only had 12:34 of ice time in Game 1, but made his shifts count.

After his Wednesday night heroics, he admitted he had trouble sleeping the night prior because he was “too excited” to get up and compete. Nerves, he said, were also present. But on the ice? The nerves didn’t show.

“He’s been playing well lately and he sure deserves it,” Colorado winger Mikko Rantanen said Wednesday. “He has a great shot and overall nice play for that line.”

Colorado is now three wins away from its first championship since 2001. Burakovsky would be the first member of Washington’s 2018-winning Stanley Cup team to win another title.

A 2013 first-round pick for Washington, Burakovsky was traded to the Avalanche for draft picks in 2019, a move he had requested. The winger was coming off what Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan described as a “frustrating” season.

“I had an unbelievable time with Washington, and to be on the first team in team history to win the Cup was absolutely something special,” Burakovsky said. “When I reflect back on it, the team we had, we came together as a group, and I think that is very important this time of year and especially the finals.”

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Colorado Coach Jared Bednar also praised Burakovsky’s all-around game.

“Managed the puck really well, didn’t have any turnovers,” Bednar said Wednesday night. “Checked hard. Was getting above pucks. Skating well. That’s what Burkie can do. You put him in a spot and he can finish.”

Burakovsky has a heightened role in Colorado, is getting time on the power play and said he feels like he was given more opportunities to grow.

“I have elevated my game a lot on the offensive side and definitely on the defensive side,” Burakovsky said. “It is all about defense, too, in the playoffs and the sacrifice you put down, sacrificing and blocking shots.”

He sees similarities between Washington’s 2018 team and Colorado’s current squad, but thinks the Avalanche has more speed and is more aggressive offensively.

“It is going to be a lot of fun to see what we have in store, and I’m super excited to do it with this team,” Burakovsky said. “ … We just have to put the focus on our group. We’re not going to focus on the outside that we are the favorites or the underdogs or things like that. We are here to play our game, find our own success.”

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