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Time to get tougher, Buff

Jets need big blue-liner’s physical presence more than ever vs. Ducks

Los Angeles KingsMarian Gaborik (12) lines up to hit Winnipeg Jets, Dustin Byfuglien

CP

Los Angeles KingsMarian Gaborik (12) lines up to hit Winnipeg Jets, Dustin Byfuglien

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dustin Byfuglien needs to be the heartbeat. The presence. The bully. He has to be confident, brash and loose. Bold Buff is the player others fear. Bashful Buff? Not so much.

Byfuglien must be an impact player for the Winnipeg Jets to have a chance in this NHL playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. He has to be physical and he has to be involved in the offence.

Thursday night, Byfuglien was unable to get his physical game started. He appeared remote, distant from the pulse of the game.

Getting a hit early and alerting the opposition to his presence is usually a good sign for Byfuglien and the Jets.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dustin Byfuglien needs to be the heartbeat. The presence. The bully. He has to be confident, brash and loose. Bold Buff is the player others fear. Bashful Buff? Not so much.

Byfuglien must be an impact player for the Winnipeg Jets to have a chance in this NHL playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. He has to be physical and he has to be involved in the offence.

Thursday night, Byfuglien was unable to get his physical game started. He appeared remote, distant from the pulse of the game.

Getting a hit early and alerting the opposition to his presence is usually a good sign for Byfuglien and the Jets.

He finished Thursday’s game with three hits, but none were of the impact variety. Anaheim’s Clayton Stoner jarred more bones than Byfuglien on this night.

"You take it as it comes. If it’s there, hit it. If it’s not, just take it. Just play the game in front of you," said Byfuglien, who admitted he didn’t have a physical impact on the game. "No, the physical wasn’t there, The opportunities weren’t there. They dumped a lot of pucks away and stayed away from me."

The Ducks have big-time players in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. They rose to the occasion, combining for three goals and seven points.

Winnipeg’s top players, including Byfuglien, captain Andrew Ladd, No. 1 centre Bryan Little and regular-season leading goal-getter Blake Wheeler were blanked. Zippo. This can’t happen.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remarked after the game, "Our big players were big."

Jets coach Paul Maurice couldn’t say the same.

"You’re always looking for your top guys to have as much impact as possible," said Ladd. "(Getzlaf and Perry) played really well in the first game. Better than our guys. So you look to regroup and answer back."

The possession numbers were ugly. Byfuglien, in particular, was at the wrong end of the ice too often.

The Jets coaches gave him lots of opportunity with twice as many offensive-zone starts than defensive, but he still ended up on the ice for 10 more chances against than chances for.

Byfuglien, however, wasn’t interested in letting one game get under his skin.

"It’s a big-picture series. It’s hockey. You’re going to make mistakes, everyone’s going to make mistakes. It’s just how you rebound and control yourself," said Byfuglien. "It’s just something that you just kind of learn, you just kind of do. You just gotta know that you’re going to get another opportunity and it’s not the end of the world. You just gotta know that you’re better than that and that you can do better next time."

Thursday’s loss to the Ducks can be easily boiled down. Anaheim’s top-end players were better than their Winnipeg counterparts.

The Jets didn’t play to their strengths and lost in both the possession and physicality categories. Anaheim’s special teams were far better with a plus-two edge in goals over the Jets in this area.

Byfuglien is right in his assertion that too much can’t be read into the result of one game. The Jets led 2-1 after two periods and if they hadn’t of gotten into penalty trouble, the result could have gone their way.

Beating the Ducks four times, however, will require the Winnipeg club to raise its game. Byfuglien has to be a part of that.

His game screams impact. The Jets need him to deliver. To spike the punch, as it were.

Trying to force offence or a big hit almost always results in a calamity. But if the Ducks are able to keep Byfgulien quiet all series, they’ll have eliminated one of Winnipeg’s biggest weapons. No, for the Jets to succeed, Byfuglien has to thrive.

Perry and Getzlaf are used to being the best players. They’re used to dictating the pace and style of a game. They’re used to running the show.

Byfuglien can disrupt this. He has the speed, power and skill to counteract what the most dangerous Ducks bring to the party.

But Byfuglien has to show up and the clock is ticking. C’mon in Buff, let’s see what you’ve got.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

 

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