He’s been a focal point of the Blackhawks' offense in the playoffs, yet still, Dustin Byfuglien is not getting all that much respect from opponents.
Now comes his biggest challenge to date. It’s a matchup with one of the best in the game, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. And Pronger isn’t showing much respect either. On Thursday he was asked whether the media was making too much of the matchup. Before the question was even finished, Pronger jumped in.
“I think you guys are,” he said.
It was pointed out that Byfuglien scored three game-winning goals in the conference final. All from the slot.
“Congratulations,” Pronger said.
“It’s pretty easy to talk about it. We got a lot of days before that first game.”
So will the mammoth Pronger try to move him out?
“I guess we’ll see,” he said.
And that was the extent of the conversation about Byfuglien. Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton was at least a little more complimentary.
“I know he’s going to go to the net,” Leighton said. “That’s his job. He goes to the net and gets in front of you. I’m a little bit bigger than [Evgeni] Nabokov so hopefully I can look over the top of him or look around him. That’s going to be my job: to be aware of where he is on the ice.
“He’s had a good playoff, and we just have to respect him.”
As for Byfuglien, he still thinks Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews draw most of the attention, so he doesn’t mind going unnoticed. He doesn’t know much about Leighton’s game but talked about his philosophy around any netminder.
“I really haven’t gotten touched at all in front,” Byfuglien said. “It’s more or less about [goaltenders] trying to find ways to see the puck more than whacking me or anything.”
“I know where I have to be. [The referees] tell me, ‘Watch it’, and I say, ‘Watch him coming out.’ If he comes out they have to make the right decision.”
“I try to get out of the way,” he said. “Sometimes they pop up and hit you, but that’s something that’s alright. You’re able to heal up and go again.”
As for he and Leighton battling in front of the net, Leighton says he won’t be taking any whacks.
“That’s not my job,” he said. “There might be a couple other players that might do that.”
I wonder who that could be.