In the 2010 Western Conference Finals the Blackhawks led the San Jose Sharks 2-0 going into Game 3 at the United Center. The Hawks went into the shark tank and stole the first two games of the series, taking home ice advantage, and putting Chicago two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final in 18 years. In a back and forth game, San Jose’s Patrick Marleau tied it late 2-2 to send the game into overtime. A pivotal situation we had here… a Hawks win puts them up 3-0 and one win away from the Final, a loss gives San Jose new life in the series and guarantees a Game 5 back in California. But 13 minutes into OT, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov lost sight of Dave Bolland skating behind the net. Bolland passed the puck to the front of the net into a wide open slot where red-hot Dustin Byfuglien didn’t miss with the one-timer to give the Blackhawks the win.
The 2010 playoff version of “Big Buff” was quite possibly the most exciting single player transformation we’ve seen in the past six seasons. Byfuglien, a pedestrian regular season player, had never been able to really break out despite his size and strength. But in the 2010 playoffs, Byfuglien broke out for 11 goals, 5 assists, and 16 points. This OT winner gave the Hawks a stranglehold on the series, and two nights later in Game 4 they overcame a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2, with a Byfuglien third period goal as the game-winner. The Blackhawks swept the top seeded Sharks, and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, where they beat the Flyers in six games to win their first Cup in 49 years.
In the 2010 playoffs, BIG Buff scored BIG goals in almost every series. A hat trick, and a complete domination of Roberto Luongo, against Vancouver. The Game 1 GWG, Game 3 OT winner, and Game 4 GWG against San Jose in the West Finals. Finishing it all off with a huge hit against Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger, and big goals in Game 5 and Game 6 of the Final series.
Unfortunately due to salary cap restrictions, the Blackhawks were forced to shed salary after winning the Stanley Cup. That meant trading Dustin Byfuglien and a handful of other good players, probably one of the most difficult trades the Hawks ever had to make. Byfuglien went on to play well for the Atlanta Thrashers, and now is a leading force on the growing Winnipeg Jets team. He has never really returned to his form from the 2010 playoffs, but has become one of the biggest players in the league in the years since his big breakout.
How could you have NOT liked Big Buff in the 2010 playoffs?
#12 coming tomorrow…