Is Brent Burns the "X" factor for the Sharks in their opening round playoff series?

"I think it's two great teams playing against each other," Burns said here Tuesday when asked the question. "That other kind of stuff is for you guys to do and decide."

All right, then. I will decide. He is.

Everyone loves to say a team has an "X" factor because no one quite knows what an "X" factor is. But it sounds dangerous and important and vaguely sinister.

If you list those adjectives, then also throw in "hairy" and "big" and " frenzied," well, that pretty much fits Brent Burns. So I unilaterally declare him to be the "X" factor when the Sharks begin their best-of-seven against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

Burns' story is familiar to Shark fans by now. However, for those just coming to the party, here's the summary: Burns began the season as a defenseman, the position he's played in the National Hockey League since 2005. But with the Sharks sucking wind and parched for goals back in March, coach Todd McLellan had the brainstorm to move Burns up front and have him play forward.

For those unfamiliar with hockey, it was a little like taking a 6-foot-5, 225-pound linebacker and converting him into a running back -- at about 100 mph, because hockey moves so fast.

The lineup switch turned on an offensive faucet. Burns, lined up alongside center and captain Joe Thornton, scored five goals in his first nine games at forward. Other Sharks seemed to absorb and amplify the mojo. More goals occurred. The team won nine of its next 13 games.

Burns' downhill go-the-net style was gorgeously unruly and effective. Sometimes he tried to skate through a defender. Sometimes he went all elbow-tastic with opponents in front of the goalie. Thornton is best at describing what it's like to be on the ice with Burns.