Hawk Talk: Shufflin' Byfuglien

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Hawk Talk: Shufflin' Byfuglien

Monday, June 7, 2010
11:05 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO The biggest man on the Chicago Blackhawks was in danger of completely disappearing from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dustin Byfuglien was largely a non-factor through the first four games (one assist, six shots, minus-3) and having a forgettable Game 4 that found him nibbling at the bait left him by the likes of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and helping to bury the Blackhawks with bad penalties.

But thanks to a lineup shuffle by coach Joel QuennevilleByfuglien dropped from the top line to a third grouping flanked by Dave Bolland and Kris Versteegand determined, steely play, the fifth-year man exploded with only the fourth Blackhawks game of two goals and two assists in the teams last 20 postseasons.

Several Blackhawks marveled not only at Byfugliens scoring outburst and NHL playoffs-high fifth game-winning goal, but his game-high nine hits. Center Dave Bolland admitted that the entire Blackhawks bench was up and cheering on one of Big Buffs hits on Pronger, invigorating the team.

Byfuglien gets the team going with how physical he can be, he said. Everyone on our bench was up and cheering after he tagged Pronger.

Pronger, who had managed to neutralize Chicagos previous top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Byfuglien in the Philadelphia leg of the Finals, not only had his worst game of the series and worst postseason game ever, but his minus-five rating (as well as being on the ice for six of Chicagos goals, including a power-play goal by Byfuglien during which the burly forward was camped at the Flyers crease, presumably wagging his tongue at the giant in the box) was the worst of the defensemans entire career. (In has been 15 years since a minus-five was laid down in a SCF gameBob Errey for the 1995 Detroit Red Wings).

But dont expect Byfuglien to gloat too much over trumping a player in Pronger who was drafted into the NHL when the gentle giant from Minnesota was just eight years old

Hes out there to battle, Byfuglien said of Pronger, while acknowledging he didnt think his nemesis had won any big battles in the series. So am I. Im going to try to get the best of him and be strong. Thats all I have to do.

Simple statements, perhaps. But theres little doubt that Byfugliens teammates consider him half-man, half-amazingwith a whole lotta happiness sprinkled in.

Hes always a happy guy, always in a good mood, Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. But on the ice, he enforces the law on people.

Hes kind of a bubbly guywin or lose, hes fun to be around, companion Chicago alternacap Duncan Keith said. But sometimes he just wants to go, and nothings going to stop him.

Kane, who added an assist to his goal, had a different, more humorous read on Byfuglien going ham in Game 5: He got rid of me and Toews and thats all he needed.

For his part, Byfuglien mostly shrugged off how much more effective he was in Game 5.

I dont know if I really got off my game, he said. I just wasnt getting the bounces and the things that make me happy. I knew I had to come in, work hard and do the best I can to help the team.

Humble to the core, the power forward was direct and succinct in diagnosing how the Blackhawks got back on track.

Getting down there two games in their building, we had to come back with some fire, get on them and show them we werent going to quit, Byfuglien said. Right from the get-go, we just moved our feet and stayed physical.

As for Pronger, he mostly avoided talk of Byfuglien postgame, but did allow for a typically sarcastic crack in response to Big Buffs breakout game: I guess hes been well-rested.

Funny, though, that one of the benefits the Flyers immediately seized on regarding the relative rarity of the two off-days before Game 6 was that it would allow the 66 defenseman an extra day of recovery from his heavy minutes loads.

You can imagine Byfuglien letting Grandpa Pronger know just that on Wednesday, crowing from his campground somewhere in front of the Philadelphia crease.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.