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Byfuglien an unexpected hero for Blackhawks

Every postseason is filled with unexpected heroes, players who stepped up and took their game to the next level as their team progressed in the playoffs. When teams don’t have those sorts of players, then progressing in the postseason becomes increasingly unlikely. More than any other sport, we learn just how much of a team game hockey is once the postseason comes.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, perhaps we can look at none other than Antti Nieimi as the difference maker so far. Yet with a team leading four game-winning goals, including three in the sweep against the Sharks, there’s no way we can overlook just how important Dustin Byfuglien has become for the Hawks.

We all know about his willingness and ability to move from forward to defense and back again; it’s an unsung ability and role you just don’t see very often in the NHL. Yet when Byfuglien was permanently moved to the top line against the Canucks, that’s when he really started to make a difference.

“I think it started in the Vancouver series. All those fans were getting on his case. He wasn’t popular in that building,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said of the man known as “Big Buff.” “Seems like he likes the spotlight. He likes being the hero. He steps up in big-time.”

Byfuglien has eight goals in the postseason, including goals in five straight games. His willingness and ability to crash the net, his agility in the trenches despite his size, makes him one heck of a foe for opposing defenses to try and clear out. Amazingly, the defenses have sometimes completely forgotten about Byfuglien as he’s picked the perfect time to come down low and pound home a goal.

He was instrumental in frustrating the Canucks and was the backbreaker against the Sharks. He’ll continue to have to be a difference maker in the Stanley Cup finals, when every goal and every play becomes so incredibly important.