VANCOUVE R—After spending a couple days here, I have yet to detect a pothole, save for the one the Canucks find themselves in.
If you missed the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory in Game #3 of this playoff series Wednesday night, all you had to do was turn on the radio Thursday for serial retrospectives. I don’t know where you find weather, traffic or grim tidings from Wall Street, but if you want to hear about the other crash landing, go directly to the Canucks’ flagship station—The Team 1040—and you’ll get an earful. Or you could read all about it.
“CRUEL DUSTINY” was the headline on the back of The Province, a tabloid that wrestled with the problem of Dustin Byfuglien as ineffectively as the Canucks did the evening before when this mountain of a man hat-tricked them into a funk. “Buffy,” as the paper also referred to him, must be halted. That much is for certain. But how?
Byfuglien bears a resemblance to Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano in body shape, the difference being that the Blackhawks’ forward/defenseman is not hyper, sensitive or self-destructive. “A fun guy to be around,” said Marian Hossa, who doesn’t have to play against him. Roberto Luongo does, and the Vancouver goalie just might be tiring of unannounced visits by No. 33. If you measured the length of Byfuglien’s three scores, the total yardage would not get you close to a first down. You would be forced to punt, although the Canucks, down 2-1 in the tournament, claim their strategy for Game #4 Friday night shall entail “adjustments.”
“I’m 225 pounds and I bounce off him in practice,” said Brent Seabrook, another of Byfuglien’s teammates. In the “new” NHL, freedom of movement is encouraged by the rules and officials who enforce them. But this system that penalizes clutching and grabbing creates some colossal scrums in and around the net. Sometimes, depending on what is being called and what isn’t, it appears that all the abuse once directed at skaters carrying or passing the puck is now being heaped upon masked men entrusted to stop it.
Luongo professes not to be bothered, even after he found himself deep in the twine, along with Byfuglien’s third goal Wednesday night. “I haven’t seen that before,” huffed Vancouver’s Christian Ehrhoff, “where you can push the goalie and score a goal on the same play.” Luongo, it should be noted, is not helping his cause by yielding several succulent rebounds, just as the Blackhawks thought, or hoped, he might.
Byfuglien admitted receiving numerous congratulatory messages for all-around excellence, his performance including a brief touché to fans after his second tally. He followed it with a few strides along the glass, arms upraised, as if judges cards had been tabulated and he’d just won a split decision. Otherwise, Byfuglien merely downplayed his effort as part of his job description.
Speaking of which, you wonder what, under his breath, Luongo is really calling that No. 33 freight train.
Probably not “Buffy.”