Between The Dots: Byfuglien spoils Canucks' homecoming
/ Chicago Blackhawks
VANCOUVER—This just in. They’re crazy about hockey here, too. Only they’re going just a bit crazier after the Blackhawks waxed the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2, Wednesday night to perpetuate the theme of home ice disadvantage that exists throughout this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Visiting teams are piling up miles and victories, but what’s worse for this jewel of a city that detests Dustin Byfuglien: the big man collected three crease-crashing goals, numerous hits and even preened a bit as the Blackhawks achieved a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series that is becoming edgier.
“I know where I’m supposed to be,” declared Byfuglien, who can usually be found in the immediate vicinity of Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver goalie who finds himself in a spot you wouldn’t wish on a leopard.
Last spring, Byfuglien stuck to Luongo like cheap aftershave while the Blackhawks were forging an upset. The Canucks had a year to think about it, a year to formulate a strategy, yet they seemed to be stage props again in the same movie Wednesday night. Asked whether Vancouver employs anyone capable of dislodging him, or at least writing him a parking ticket, Byfuglien calmly responded, “I don’t think so.” No hubris there. He reacted to the question as deftly as he hacked the stick away from Henrik Sedin during the second period—without penalty—as the Blackhawks seized control of a game they were not unfortunate to lead 2-0 after a first period when Canucks buzzed to no avail.
On a similar note, are there any more questions about whether Antti Niemi is up to this challenge?
Niemi early and Byfuglien throughout did their utmost to take the crowd out of the equation, but that is most difficult in General Motors Place, even when fans in painted faces aren’t being prompted by messages such as “Make Some Noise!” What would Vancouver do if it also had the Cubs, White Sox, Bears and Bulls? It would still treat hockey as family. A la United Center, the pre-game fare is quite elaborate. From the ceiling, people bearing Canucks’ flags are lowered via ropes onto the rink. It’s minutes before the puck is dropped, and already there are too many men on the ice, setting the stage for the most fashionable penalty of the ongoing playoffs, all series in either conference. The Blackhawks got their perfunctory punishment early in the first period, the Canucks later.
Loud is not the word for the scene inside General Motors Place. Some of us are old enough to remember when Canadian fans were rather reserved, but no more. They could never hold a funeral in this building because that would require a moment of silence, and even with the Canucks down all night, there really was no let-up.
Scotty Bowman, the legendary senior advisor for the Blackhawks, recalled to a press box neighbor when Red Kelly, coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins, brought his team into a noisy St. Louis building with some ammunition. “He had his players wear earmuffs, remember?” screamed Bowman. “Did you hear me? Red Kelly had his players wear earmuffs.”
Not a bad idea, although having Luongo wear Byfuglien is working for the Blackhawks, again.