Rewind back to last Sunday. With the Blackhawks dropping a crucial Game 3 to the Vancouver Canucks, all looked lost for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Tuesday was supposed to be the end. Hawk fans were expecting to stow away their Blackhawk gear until the fall in favor of Cubs or Sox stuff.
Yet, here we are. After another blowout of the Canucks on Thursday night, the Blackhawks are looking poised to make this a very interesting series, if they haven’t already. Don’t call it a comeback yet, but it’s pretty easy to see how the Hawks are having this success over the course of a couple games, despite being clearly outmatched in the first trio of games in the series.
Yes, that Dave Bolland. The Dave Bolland who was incapable of stepping up into the role of second line center for the Blackhawks and couldn’t win a faceoff on a consistent basis for love or money. The Dave Bolland I had deemed expendable on more than one occasion, a mistake I won’t be making any time soon.
These last two games have seen an immediate turnaround in the Blackhawks’ play, much of it due to the return of Bolland prior to Game 4. Bolland had missed 17 games after he took an elbow to the head, courtesy of Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina, leaving him with a concussion that left his status for the season up in the air.
Upon his return before Game 4, many criticized the move that Joel Quenneville made to get him back in the lineup. With Vancouver already a physical team to begin with, they had also been taking liberties with several of the Hawks’ players, including Raffi Torres‘ now infamous elbow to the head of Brent Seabrook , which has caused Seabs to miss Chicago’s last two games.
Yet, we were all wrong. Terribly, terribly, and at the same time, fantastically wrong.
The impact Bolland made upon his return was instantaneous. Known throughout the league for his shutdown ability of some of the game’s best forwards, Bolland wasted no time in ensuring the faces of the Sedin twins were on a milk carton.
In the two games since his return, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, both Hart Trophy candidates and top five scorers, have combined for just a single point. Corey Crawford has two.
Bolland has also made his presence known on the offensive side, something that is always a plus for a defensive forward like the man they call “The Rat”. In his first game since returning from the concussion, Bolland touched the Canucks for four points, including a goal in the 7-2 victory.
In just two games, Bolland has proven to be one of the most, if not the most, underrated player in the National Hockey League. With plenty of scoring ability on these top lines, with the guys like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, the importance of a guy like Bolland cannot be overstated.
While “dynamic” probably isn’t the best word to describe Bolland, it can certainly fit the bill at times, especially when he’s able to contribute in the offensive game, like he did on Tuesday.
As the Blackhawks struggled down the stretch, and reached the postseason on a win by the Minnesota Wild, which can only be described as lucky, many failed to realize what these Hawks were really missing. It was Bolland.
He wasn’t the only factor contributing to their struggles in the last few games of the regular season and the first three games of this series, but Bolland has been Superman against Vancouver in his first two games. After Blackhawk fans had thrown in the white flag, Bolland’s return has them flocking to the United Center, hoping that the Hawks have some more magic in them and can force a Game 7.