Big man playing like one
Posted on: May 10, 2009 2:28 am
Edited on: May 10, 2009 2:39 am
If you hadn't noticed Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien in this series against Vancouver -- and that's pretty hard since he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 246 pounds -- then you were probably spending too much time concentrating on the scoring summaries.
The 24-year-old Minneapolis native didn't pick up a point in the first four games against the Canucks, although the Blackhawks right winger did use his rare combination of size and skill to make his presence felt in other ways, namely by driving to the net, drawing penalties, finishing checks with a vengeance and often creating a lunar eclipse effect in front of goalie Roberto Luongo.
"He's had a great series, a great playoffs and it started with the last 10 games of the season that he's been playing his best hockey," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "He's a force out there physically, he has nice shot, quick hands and finishes his checks, so you notice him out there."
In many ways, Byfuglien has probably reminded Vancouver fans of Todd Bertuzzi, who during his best days there was the league's quintessential power forward. Byfuglien hasn't quite reached that status yet, but if the way he played in Chicago's pivotal 4-2 win tonight and indeed in this series as a whole is any indication, he's getting a lot closer.
Heck he even got his name in the scoring summary tonight with a pair of goals. The irony though is that one of Byfuglien's most important contributions tonight won't be officially recorded because the distraction he caused for Luongo on Dave Bolland's winning power play goal with five minutes left in regulation didn't even earn him an assist. Still it was a critical factor in getting Luongo out of position and giving Chicago a 3-2 series lead.
So was the disjointed effort the Canucks turned in for that matter. Vancouver tried to bore Chicago into submission in the previous game and to trap its way to a 1-0 win before losing in overtime. But in Game 5, the Canucks took a more aggressive approach, with the problem being that it didn't create more in the way of offense or throw the Blackhawks for a loop.
It did however lead to other problems for the Canucks, who got into unnecessary penalty trouble all night by engaging after whistles and showing a lack of discipline between them. Vancouver managed just 10 shots over the final two periods, and set itself up for disaster when Kevin Bieksa took a dumb high sticking penalty in the third period. Chicago has dominated the final 20 minute sessions throughout this series and Bolland scored on the ensuring power play, in large part because of Byfuglien's uncredited assist, and now goes home with a chance to wrap things up Monday.