Watching Erik Karlsson bob his way in, around and through an opponent’s half of the ice is as exhilarating as it is terrifying.
Any Stars fan who attended the team’s 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks falls into the latter category.
Brett Burns doesn’t have quite the dazzling array of moves, but his abilities and productivity as an offensive defenseman are almost equally as potent as those of his teammate.
On Wednesday night, Jim Montgomery’s group did a decent job of holding the pair at bay. By night’s end, Karlsson finished with a state line of zero points and a minus-1.
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Burns finished his evening with 2 assists and was even in the plus-minus category.
Karlsson and Burns like to push and push and push. And in the second period, the Stars took advantage of that fact.
On two separate occasions, the last Shark back turned the puck over. Each time the Stars were able to capitalize.
With the game knotted at one goal apiece, Tyler Seguin broke the tie (and his career-long goalless streak) when he picked-off a D-to-D pass (Karlsson was looking up the ice) and wristed the puck past goalie Martin Jones.
Moments later, Gemel Smith, Miro Heiskanen and Jason Dickinson played a turned a turnover into a gorgeous game of 3-on-1, tic-tac-toe that resulted in a Smith goal and a 3-1 lead.
The Stars also seized on Karlsson’s somewhat lackadaisical effort chasing after a rebound, as Devin Shore put home his second goal of the night, which would be the eventual game-winner.
Stars fans had a reason to be curious about Karlsson beyond just his performance.
Once it became evident that the Senators were going to trade him over the summer, Dallas emerged as a potential trade partner.
Ottawa wanted Miro Heiskanen included in the deal, which is where general manager Jim Nill drew the line. At the rate Heiskanen is progressing, along with John Klingberg, the Stars might’ve found a better version of the Burns-Karlsson duo.
Considering the way Burns is playing, it’s tremendously difficult to fully contain him.
“That was my first time coaching against Brett Burns and the way he zips the puck off of his stick and finds sticks at the net, it’s pretty impressive,” Stars head coach Montgomery said after the game.
Case in point, the blue liner was given a split-second too long at the point and he made the Stars pay by sliding an absurd pass off the stick of a one-kneed Joe Pavelski right in front of the crease for a goal.
He added another helper to tie the game at 3-3, when he darted a crisp pass through the high slot that Evander Kane somehow managed to slow-roll past goalie Anton Khudobin.
Burns now has 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 16 games. Entering tonight, he he was tied for the fourth-most points among defenseman in the NHL.
Entering Thursday night, the Stars have already faced six of the top nine defenseman with the highest point totals (John Klingberg ranks sixth).
The good news is that six of those 10 players (counting Klingberg) reside in the Eastern Conference.
The bad news is that the player ranked eleventh in that category will comes to town Saturday, along with well-established best team in the Western Conference.
Defenseman P.K. Subban, who was brought over in a trade from the Montreal Canadiens back in June of 2016, is a huge reason why Nashville has been as good as anyone over the last two seasons.
Over that span, Subban has played in 148 games and recorded 99 points (26 goals, 73 assists).
Through 15 games in 2018, he has 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists), which will eclipse his season point totals from each of the past two seasons.
Nashville’s second leading point-getter on defense isn’t exactly a slouch, either.
Last season, Mattias Ekholm’s 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists were a career high). This season, he’s already got 10 (2 goals, 8 assists).
“They (Nashville) attack you differently,” Montgomery said. “There’s more cycling into the zone, but it (playing against Karlsson and Burns) does prepare you. It prepares your wingers to have a head on a swivel and to have sticks protecting the middle of the ice. Also, where those guys are.”