VANCOUVER — Joel Quenneville can probably thank the Vancouver Canucks fans at GM Place.
The boisterous sellout crowd likely made his job easier by motivating Dustin Byfuglien, who was the star of the night with his hat-trick in Wednesday’s 5-2 Chicago Blackhawks win and the talk of the town the next day.
For all his attributes — mainly his size, agility and hands — Byfuglien has a history of disappearing when games become small and he isn’t part of the picture.
The 6-foot-4, 257-lb. winger is known as Buff, but a better nickname could be Bear, since he has a tendency to hibernate during the season.
But Canucks fans, remembering the impact Byfuglien had on last year’s playoff series, poked him with the boisterous booing from the drop of the puck, and he fed off it.
“I’m sure he does. Any hockey player will,” said Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook. “You get the crowd beating up on you and everybody making such a big deal, a player feeds off that. Buff loves that.”
Byfuglien wasn’t made available to the media Thursday, as the Blackhawks trotted out just a trio of players and Quenneville.
Byfuglien was more than happy to engage the Canucks, bowling his way to the net and enjoying the benefits of rebounds on all three goals.
And he was more than happy to engage the fans after his second goal, gliding around the ice face towards the glass and arms outstretched as if to say, “How do you like me now?”
“He was pretty excited to score and the timing was big, but I don’t think he’s worried too much about that,” Quenneville said of the back-and-forth banter. “I think he’s worried about trying to be the best he can and that’s reactionary.
“I don’t know if there’s any other motivation or plan behind it.”
Just imagine if Byfuglien could deliver every night.
“He can have games like that, be a dominant guy,” Quenneville said. “The consistency is something we’d like to see Buff attain and achieve. He can be real special in a lot of ways, and (Wednesday) night was a good night.”