A less mature goaltender may have problems handling the situation Taz Burman finds himself in with the Red Deer Rebels.
On the majority of nights the 16-year-old Vancouver native finds himself on the bench watching the Rebels outstanding goaltender Patrik Bartosak, who was just named the Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the week.
But instead of worrying about it, Burman looks at it as an opportunity to grow and prepare to hopefully filling Bartosak’s shoes beginning next season.
“I knew my role coming in,” he said. “I’m a competitive guy and would like to play as much as possible, but Patty is an unbelievable goalie and he gives us a chance to win every night. I know what my role is and I’ll be ready when called upon. Every once in a while I get a chance to go in.”
Burman has played in 10 games this season and has a 3.48 goals-against-average and a .896 save percentage.
The Rebels have 23 games remaining and are in a battle to grab one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They head into tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting at the Centrium with the Brandon Wheat Kings tied for seventh place, just three points back of fifth-place Brandon.
“I understand why I’m not playing a lot,” continued Burman. “We’re in the stretch drive and Patty is pushing us into the playoffs and into a good position.”
Rebels owner/head coach/GM Brent Sutter knows the situation as well.
“It’s not an easy situation for any goalie, but when you have a player like Patty here he will play and especially in our situation where we’re in. We have to go with our No. 1 guy and Taz won’t get much playing time, but he’s handled it real well.”
The six-foot-one, 164-pound Burman won’t just sit on the bench the rest of the way either.
“Once we get into some four games in five days stretches he’ll play, likely in the third game,” explained Sutter. “So he’ll start two or three more games so it’s important for him to stay focused and ready to go.”
And he will be.
“The experience I’ve gained here, in the games I’ve played and in practice has made me a better goalie than if I would have been if I stayed in midget,” he said.
“Practice time has been huge for me. I have a real good relationship with Patty and Taylor (goalie coach Dakers). Patty gives me advise all the time and just watching him, and the way he moves, is beneficial.
“I’ve worked with Taylor on a lot of things . I think I’m a bit quicker. I was always a calmer goalie, so I had to work on being quicker, especially with the puck in close. As well I’ve worked on coming out and challenging a bit more, to take away the angles, and to read the play. I just can’t wait and see what is happening. If you do you’re behind the play. I need to see if there will be a shot or pass and be prepared.”
There was talk prior to the season that Burman, a second-round draft pix in the 2012 Bantam Draft by the Rebels, would be sent back to midget this season to give him more playing time. But he showed during training camp he was the best prospect in the system.
“It’s a tough situation to put a 16-year-old in, but in our situation we didn’t have a choice,” said Sutter. “He was the next best goaltender in our system and a guy we’re grooming to be an important part of our team after this season.”
With the 20-year-old Bartosak leaving after this season, Burman will be a strong contender to take over.
“I’m still growing and I still have a lot of things to work on so that I can get better every day and get where Patty is. But that’s not going to be easy,” Burman said.
Sutter hired Dakers this year to spend as much time as he could working with Burman, as well as the other netminders in the system.
“We have two other younger goalies in the system, who have played well, so we’re starting to get some depth, something we lacked,” Sutter said, who realizes the majority of coaches know little about goaltenders.
“It’s the most important position on the team, but coaches and assistant coaches spend the least amount of time with them. Goalies think the game differently and you almost have to be a goalie to be in their heads and in their mind set. That’s another reason we hired Taylor, to have him spend more time with our goalies here and with the guys in our system. He also helps the scouts evaluate possible draft picks.”
That’s important as after this season CHL teams can’t draft European netminders.
“So we need our home grown goalies to develop and that starts at the peewee and bantam level,” added Sutter.
Bartosak received the Vaughn CHL goaltender of the week award for the period ending on Sunday. He won all three road games last week, posting two shutouts, a 0.67 goals-against-average and a .984 save percentage. He stopped 123 shots in the three games.