2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Dustin Byfuglien is the Conn Smythe Front-Runner

Ryan DavenportContributor IJune 7, 2010

CHICAGO - MAY 23:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his third period goal while taking on the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 23, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Throughout these Stanley Cup playoffs, one player has been above all others in clutch situations.  Dustin Byfuglien has answered the call time and time again when his team needed him most, and he saved one of his best performances for the pivotal Game Five of the Finals.  

On Sunday night, with his team reeling from two straight defeats at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers—not to mention being shut down by Chris Pronger for the duration of the series—Byfuglien silenced his critics with the type of performance that makes players champions.  

His two goal, two assist effort came on the heels of being dropped from the first to the third line and catapulted him back into the running for the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.  

After being widely criticized for his absence during the majority of the first four games of the series, "Big Buff" did what he does best—he went to the net. He parked his huge frame in front of Michael Leighton, creating havoc for the Flyer defense.  He also leveled Chris Pronger with what ESPN analyst Barry Melrose called "the best hit ever laid on Chris Pronger."

This is just the latest chapter in Byfuglien's masterful postseason performance.

In the Western Conference Finals, Byfuglien came up with three game-winning goals.  His overtime winner in Game Three was one for the ages, popping the water bottle of Evgeni Nabokov and sending the 20,000 United Center faithful into a frenzy with another wild celebration.  He then sealed the series with a classic Byfuglien tip-in in front, something with which Roberto Luongo, Evgeni Nabokov, and now Michael Leighton have become all too familiar.  

While Byfuglien is far off the lead for points in the postseason (teammate and sometimes linemate Jonathan Toews holds that distinction), he's at the top of the heap in terms of clutch contributions.  

Just when people thought the Flyers had the edge, Dustin Byfuglien showed up to play by banging bodies, lighting the lamp and intimidating the opposition.

It's all in a day's work for this Conn Smythe trophy candidate.