Former Cap Andre Burakovsky shines for Colorado Avalanche

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DENVER — Colorado Avalanche winger Andre Burakovsky entered this Stanley Cup Final determined to make his own history.

Burakovsky, now four years away from winning his first Stanley Cup with Washington, knew his past successes in the district would be a popular topic of conversation ahead of the finals. But Burakowski doesn’t want to talk about his past – he wants to focus on what lies ahead.

“It’s a new group, it’s a new opportunity… we want to write our own success,” Burakovsky said Tuesday. “Definitely feels similar, super excited to be back in the finals. It’s the best time of the year. It’s an incredible feeling. There are not many people who reach the final and to be here for the second time is special.”

Burakovsky was Colorado’s hero in Wednesday night’s Game 1 at Ball Arena when he scored the game-winner just 83 seconds after overtime. The Avalanche will face Tampa Bay Lightning, two-time cup holders, in Game 2 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 needed several days of maintenance before the Stanley Cup Finals and only had 12:34 ice time in Game 1, but his shifts counted.

Following his Wednesday night exploits, he admitted he had trouble sleeping the night before because he was “too excited” to get up and compete. Nerves, he said, were there too. But on the ice? The nerves didn’t show.

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

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

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

“I had an incredible time with Washington and to be in the first team in team history to win the trophy was absolutely special,” said Burakowski. “Thinking back, the team we had, we came together as a group and I think that’s very important at this time of year and especially for the finals.”

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Colorado coach Jared Bednar also praised Burakowski’s all-around game.

“Managed the puck really well, didn’t have any turnovers,” Bednar said Wednesday night. “Hard checked. Was over the pucks. good skating Burkie can do that. You put him in position and he can finish.”

Burakovsky has a bigger role in Colorado, is given power play time and said he feels he’s been given more opportunities to develop.

“I’ve improved my game a lot on offense and definitely on defense,” said Burakovsky. “It’s also about defense in the playoffs and the sacrifice you make, sacrificing and blocking shots.”

He sees similarities between Washington’s 2018 team and Colorado’s current roster, but believes the Avalanche are faster and more offensively aggressive.

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

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