Chicago Blackhawks vs. San Jose Sharks pits Badger vs. Badger

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Pavelski and Burish as teammates

by Peter Christian

The last time both Adam Burish and Joe Pavelski stepped on the same ice with this much on the line was April 8th, 2006. It was as teammates and linemates for the Wisconsin Badgers in the National Championship Game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. I was there, but this story isn’t about me.

Now, a little more than 4 years later, both players are ready to battle for the Campbell Cup and the right to move on to play for the game’s ultimate prize, Lord Stanley’s Cup, aka The Greatest Trophy in all of sports. Of course, this time Burish and Pavelski won’t be looking to help each other on the ice. No, this time they’re on different lines, Blackhawks and Sharks, wearing different uniforms and in much different roles than they were for the Badgers when they both played their part in winning the national crown.

badger

In 2006, Adam Burish was the face of the Badgers. He was the team’s captain, the center on the top line and a go to guy in the locker room for a good sound bite. He was third on the team in scoring and a key component to getting his line to click. Now, he’s a 3rd or 4th line player who works his tail off, runs his mouth, annoys the piss out of the opposing team and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves on occasion for the Blackhawks.

In fact, Burish’s NHL game is remarkably different from the style he played in college. For the Badgers, Burish’s game was a fearless forechecker and an excellent two way player who was comfortable handling the puck and dishing to his playmaker linemates in the offensive zone.

However, for the Blackhawks he’s primarily a grinder. Adam’s a guy that gets into the corners, wears down the opposing team any way he can, plays physical and will try and draw a penalty or two (while committing a couple of his own). It’s not a glamorous role in the NHL and few guys can really last in the league playing this role, but Burish made the transition smoothly, and seems to relish the role.

badgers hockey

In the Sharks sweater, Joe Pavelski hasn’t seen his style change as much as Burish, but he’s still had to make adjustments. He’s still a scoring threat anytime he touches the puck, but also an excellent skater and apt to kill a penalty or two. He’s not the top line guy that opposing teams create specific gameplans for, like during his final Badger season. In the 2005-06 season, Pavelski was the Badgers’ leading scorer and an all around treat to watch. His ability was raw, but he was able to get so much out of it for the Badgers during that season, it seemed like the Sharks had gotten away with an old school train robbery by drafting him in the 7th round.

For the Sharks he’s never going to get the attention he got in college and get draws against the opponent’s best defenders, but maybe that works to Joe’s advantage. As a 2nd line player, he’s notched back-to-back 50 point seasons (his most recent occurred in just 67 games played) and he is on his way to potentially being a 1 point per game player (a feat only 21 players who played more than 50 games ever accomplished). He’s leading the Sharks in postseason scoring. At heart, Joe’s still a scorer and he’s likely not yet found his true groove in the NHL. He’s still rising to his potential.

Both players are crucial cogs in their team’s ability to win. Both players will need to play at or above the level they displayed in April of 2006 at the Bradley Center. And while they won’t be teammates this time, it’s a safe bet that the two kids from Wisconsin, who grew up about 100 miles apart, will do whatever they can to get their name etched into the Stanley Cup and earn the right to bring the Cup home for a day to show off in America’s Dairyland.

pavelski sharks

The headlines might be given to guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton or (another former Badger, but not native Wisconsinite) Dany Heatley, but in the heart of the cheese state, Bucky faithful will be torn cheering on two of their own for separate teams. Adam Burish or Joe Pavelski will get the honor to play for their first Stanley Cup championship and the right to bring either Madison (Burish’s hometown) or Plover/Stevens Point (Pavelski’s stomping grounds) the aforementioned trophy. The Sea of Red was exploding with joy that night in early April 2006, I would expect no less if one of these two hoists the trophy.

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Comments

  1. David K. says

    the one Badger sport I openly cheer for… well done Peter

  2. paulmbanks says

    I’m sure Burish has thought about what kind of tail he could get if they win the cup

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