Brent Burns in a class by himself for defenseman goal scoring

Through 75 games, Brent Burns has 27 goals, already matching his career high set in 2015-16. That goal total and a chance to hit 30 goals is astounding for a defenseman in today’s scoring-lite NHL. Second place for defense scoring is Shea Weber with less than two-thirds (17 goals) of Burns’ total. Brent Burns really is in a class by himself in terms of goal scoring from the blue line.


Justin Faulk with a chance to finish in (distant) second place in 2016-17

With his 2 goals on Monday, Justin Faulk tied his career high from the 2015-16 season with 16 goals. He pulled ahead of a small pack of defensemen when he reached 16 and is only 1 behind Shea Weber who is second in the NHL with 17.

Faulk’s goal-scoring prowess is impressive in its own right. But could Justin Faulk catch Burns in 2017-18 if he puts it all together? I would say that it is a long shot but maybe not as far-fetched as a first glance might indicate.

The difference between 16 and 27 is obviously significant, but when you dig into the details of what Faulk has accomplished and more significantly how he has done so in the past 2 seasons, the potential exists for Faulk to move up from his 2016-17 total. The fact that Justin Faulk just turned 25 years old also offers hope that he may not have peaked yet.


Justin Faulk: A tale of 2 goal-scoring binges


Justin Faulk’s 2015-16 scoring was all about the power play and his lethal and importantly on target slap shot.

Of Faulk’s 16 goals, 12 came on the power play. His first 12 goals came on the power play and all came in the first 30 games of the season. Through most of that time, Faulk was leading all players in power play goals and defensemen including Brent Burns in total goals scored. The vast majority of those goals came from his big slap shot that could not seem to miss early in the 2015-16 season and had enough heat to beat goalies fairly regularly even when they saw it.

Faulk cooled in January and then had roughly the last third of his season derailed by a leg injury. In 55 games before the injury in 2015-16, Faulk scored at 24-goal pace and an 18-goal pace for power play tallies. Important to note is that sample does not over-cherry pick time periods. It does eliminate games played after his nagging injury, but it includes a slow January and early February that saw Faulk go goal-less.

If you look at what Faulk did best in terms of goal scoring, it would not have been unreasonable to project something like 16-18 power play goals in 2017-18.


Fast forward to the 2016 season. Faulk’s goal total (thus far) is identical. Based on that, one might assume that the goal-scoring formula was pretty simple. That is actually not the case. Of his 16 tallies, only 3 have come on the power play. This season, the majority of Faulk’s goal scoring is coming at even strength and much more so from crafty wrist shots either receiving and firing quickly in the offensive zone or quite often stepping into holes and finishing by joining the rush. The booming slap shot that drove Faulk’s 2015-16 scoring is actually a bit lost. He has had trouble hitting the net of late, quite often firing wildly off the end boards. Right now, Faulk has 13 even strength goals and could easily add another 1-2 to reach 14-15 on the season in 74 games if he plays in the rest of the games.

Adding it up

It would take a healthy season and putting together the strengths of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons scoring-wise at the same time, but Justin Faulk did that, it does not seem quite as crazy as 1 might think to project 30 goals. The math is just a matter of playing at his 2015-16 pace on the power play and putting up 16-18 goals, playing at his 2016-17 pace at even strength for another 12-15 goals. That yields a very Brent Burns-ish total of 28-33 goals which does not even account for any kind of modest boost as the Hurricanes’ offense improves.


What say you Canes fans?

What is Justin Faulk's goal scoring ceiling if he puts it all together in 2017-18?

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