Former Blackhawk of the Week: Dustin Byfuglien

Byfuglien was virtually unstoppable at times during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Dustin Byfuglien has now spent over two-thirds of his NHL career playing for a team that isn’t the Chicago Blackhawks. Since being part of the first post-Stanley Cup purge in 2010, he’s played in 556 games for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets, dwarfing his total of 260 with the Blackhawks.

But few Hawks who were only part of one Cup run made quite the impact that Dustin Byfuglien did.

Byfuglien came from humble beginnings just to make the NHL, an eighth round selection (245th overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft. He had monstrous size (listed at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds currently) and a booming slap shot, but questions persisted about his conditioning. Still, in two years after being selected, he made his NHL debut with the 2005-06 Chicago Blackhawks. Two seasons later, he played a full 67 games while converting from defense to forward and has been an NHL mainstay ever since, although he’s been largely back on the blue line since being traded out of Chicago.

The 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs chapter of the Byfuglien book remains the most memorable from a Blackhawks perspective. He tied Patrick Sharp for the team lead with 11 goals in 22 games, and his 16 points were tied with Dave Bolland for fifth.

Byfuglien’s postseason dominance was often on the power play, an immovable object in front of the net because of his massive size. And at even strength, he often skated that postseason with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, gathering any rebounds that were left loose in the crease.

He had a had trick against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinal, part of a 5-2 drubbing of a Vancouver team that still remains the standard for postseason rivalries with the Blackhawks in this decade.

During Chicago’s four-game sweep of the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, Byfuglien scored once in every game, including the overtime winner in Game 3 that produced the wonderful photo shown at the top of this article. And he had the GWG in Game 4 as well, tapping home a perfect pass from Kane on — you guessed it — the power play.

Byfuglien was quiet for the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers, but erupted in Game 5. First, he leveled one of the NHL’s biggest and best villains in Chris Pronger:

And then on one of the most perfect power play goals you’ll ever see, all five players touched the puck in a span of seconds before Byfuglien guided the puck into the net from— where else? — right on the top of the crease.

It was a four point night for Byfuglien (two goals, two assists) and an 8-5 victory for Chicago that set up the team’s Cup-clinching win in Game 6.

Byfuglien has appeared in only four playoff games since leaving the Hawks, a by-product of being part of a Winnipeg franchise that took some time to put it all together like it has this season. Now on the verge of turning 33 (his birthday is March 27), Byfuglien appears to have his best shot at another deep playoff push. And he’s got a high bar to clear for postseason performances.

For two glorious months during a joyous 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff season (at least from Chicago’s perspective), it was hard to stop “Big Buff.”