Let's head down memory lane for a minute to last Spring.
The Blackhawks had disposed of Calgary in the first round of the playoffs, and moved on to face the Vancouver Canucks, a better and healthier team than the Flames.
Taking the Hawks' youth and inexperience into account, many fans were satisfied with the first round series victory and figured that beating Vancouver would just be a bonus, especially without home ice advantage.
The Hawks were outplayed in Game 1, and despite a valiant comeback effort in the 3rd period, they lost the game 4-3. Game 2 began the same way, and it looked as though the Hawks might fall down 0-2 in the series.
And then something happened.
The Hawks remembered the Canucks' weakness: A mentally rattled Roberto Luongo.
And so it began. Dustin Byfuglien, criticized all season for disappearing for games at a time and not living up to his potential, got inside the head of the most important player in the series. Buff planted his butt in front of the Canucks goaltender, and the game took on a whole new outlook. Luongo couldn't see pucks as easily, he lost his focus, and he became a completely different goalie. The Hawks beat a frustrated Luongo six times that night and won the game 6-3.
The Hawks went on to win the series in six games. In the clincher, they scored on Greasy Bob SEVEN times, earning him the nickname Roberto 7uongo.
Back to the present. With a second rematch set up vs. Vancouver, the big question was whether or not Quenneville would move Byfuglien off the blue line and back to wing to try and duplicate last year's performance. Thankfully, Q made the right choice and did so.
"I think he was a factor in that series and was last year in the playoffs up front." Quenneville said today after practice. "On a need basis he was on the blue line and maybe we have some options during the course of the games of putting him back, but I think up front is where he is going to begin and hopefully he can be a presence at the net and be physically doing his thing."
This decision was really a no-brainer. Byfuglien became less and less reliable on defense as the Nashville series progressed. He was unable to make passes, he was unable to receive passes, and he found himself out of position on numerous occasions. Against a high scoring team like Vancouver, the Hawks can't afford those same mishaps.
Combine that with Byfuglien's history against Luongo and Brian Campbell being ready for increased minutes after returning from injury, and it becomes a good thing all around.
So how does moving Buff back to forward impact the line-up?
Here's a look at the forward lines that were used this morning in practice:
Those are essentially what we saw during the second half of the Nashville series, minus Adam Burish.
The move also leaves a spot open on the blue line for either Jordan Hendry or Nick Boynton. I think Hendry is a fine defenseman, but Nick Boynton might be a better fit against this Canucks team. In case you forgot, these two teams hate each other. With Eager and Burish out of the lineup, there is literally nobody in a Hawks sweater ready to drop the gloves if necessary. Nick Boynton might not be very good, but he would provide a physical presence on the back end. Judging by the hit statistics from the Hawks' last game vs. Nashville, they need it.
This series is going to be fun. Chicago-Vancouver might be one of the most overlooked rivalries in the NHL. You've got Buff vs. Luongo, Alex Burrows pulling Keith's hair last season, Willie Mitchell's hit on Toews earlier this year that caused a concussion, etc.
Don't expect any line brawls, as fights are rare in the playoffs, but get ready for some up-tempo, hard hitting, intense playoff action throughout this series.
Should be a welcomed sight after what we just went through in the Nashville series.
Game 1 of the Blackhawks-Canucks series will take place at the United Center on either Friday or Saturday, depending on the outcome of tonight's Washington-Montreal Game 7.
-JT (Follow me on Twitter @JTalarico328 for Hawks thoughts, news, and updates)