Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

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Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

Friday, May 28, 2010
2:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO It started in Nashville, with an unprompted run of screams, slapshots and self-checks on the boards. Aggressive, hitting, the way his grandfather taught him to play.

Let the wild rumpus begin, indeed.

The Blackhawks were deadlocked 1-1 in their quarterfinals series with the Predators, and Dustin Byfuglien professed that his unprompted attack on an innocent section of boards at the Bridgestone Center, coupled with loud screams that literally stopped the arena cold (and amused his teammates to no end) was him just fooling around.

But soon, Brian Campbell would return to the lineup and Byfuglien was a temporary defenseman no more. And in the process of not only moving back to offense but onto the Blackhawks top line, the 64, 257-pound power forward changed the course of Chicagos season forever.

Byfuglien leads the team with eight goalsall in the last eight games of the playoffsand four game-winners, including three deciding tallies in the recent sweep of the San Jose Sharks.

For his part, the soft-spoken, fifth-year player smiles sheepishly and shakes his head when reminded of his outburst a month ago. Befitting a man whos usually the biggest in the room but would rather be overlooked and left to his own devices, it takes a few tries to get him to talk about that latest transition time in his career.

It was nothing, really, Byfuglien said. I was just having a good time, trying to loosen up the guys. Wed played so solid at home, and this was our first road game in the playoffs.

Big Buff in fact may have done much too good a job readying up his mates for road work. While the Blackhawks would lose Game 3 in Nashville, it was the last road loss of the postseason for Chicago.

Yeah, maybe I did, but thats a good thing, right? Byfuglien says, laughing.

Theres another side to Dr. Buffs motivational techniques, however, and it comes from something ingrained in him from a very young age, from his grandfather, Kenny.

Byfuglien, for those who arent familiar, was raised in rural Roseau, Minn. (just south of the Canadian border) by his mother and grandparents, living in a trailer behind his grandparents house. His mother, Cheryl, worked a blue-collar job to support Dustin, and as a youngster he spent a lot of his free time on local outdoor rinks, playing with his cousins.

Byfuglien was four when he started playing hockey, growing to idolize his cousin Derrick, who seemed like an NHL player to me, as a little kid, Byfuglien said.

But it is Byfugliens grandfather whos made a lasting impression. Buff went so far as to admit that the first call he would make after Chicagos clinching of a Stanley Cup berth on Sunday would be his grandpa, and yesterday at the Stanley Cup media day, he updated the story.

It took me awhile to get through to him, Byfuglien said. He was pretty excited to hear from me, and excited about the game.

Byfuglien had predicted that his game-winning goal to clinch the Blackhawks first Stanley Cup berth in would get his grandpa off the couch, and indeed it did.

He was so excited, Byfuglien says with visible pride, and the closest youll get him to blushing. Hes my biggest fan, and he was hollering for me.

While his grandpa imparted many lessons on long truck drives together, from practical things like his decorum on the ice and how he should treat his coaches, to life lessons and encouragement.

But when it comes to what Grandpa Kenny is most excited to see from Roseaus favorite son, its something decidedly less polite.

What does my grandpa like to see, me score a goal or make a big hit? Byfuglien repeats. Thats easy, no questionhe wants to see me hit.

A goal gets him off the couch, but hes always telling me to be physical. So a big hit, that might get him jumping around the room.

Grandpa Kenny hasnt seen any playoff games so far in 2010, but hes on his way down to watch the Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 on Saturday. So fans, ushers, bewareif you see an older gentleman looking positively Buff-ish and leaping through the aisles after a big Byfuglien hit, you can call him Kenny.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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