Dave Bolland is an enigma.
A guy that has performed so well in the postseason, against top lines from top teams, Bolland has struggled for the better part of the past two seasons with the Blackhawks. He’s struggled to stay healthy, and when he is healthy, he fails to produce consistently, whether it’s in the faceoff circle or on the offensive end.
That appears to have changed. Dave Bolland has been a force in the Hawks’ start through the first five games of the season, though he did miss the season opener with a mysterious injury.
While the top line has gotten off the something of a slow start, thanks to a new teammate in Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp missing training camp and the preseason, the second and third lines have been a driving force early on for the Hawks.
The third line is one that carried over from the Vancouver series, with Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik joining Bolland on either side of that third line. It’s proven to be dynamic at both ends of the ice, brings a ton of energy to the ice, and could be among the better, if not the best, checking lines in the league.
Already with a reputation as one of the league’s best defensive forwards, and a terrific guy to have on the penalty kill, Bolland has established himself as a Selke Trophy candidate to this point in the season.
Bolland already has four goals this season, as well as an assist, to go along with that plus-4. He’s won just over 50 percent of the draws, a stat that appears to be improving. One of the bigger knocks on Bolland has been that faceoff percentage, and it was something he dedicated himself to improving over the summer.
Along with his improved offensive game, Bolland’s defensive game has stayed as strong as it has always been. In his four games so far, Bolland hasn’t finished with a negative plus/minus and has seen more ice time shorthanded than any of the other forwards on the team. He netted his first shorthanded goal on Tuesday, against the Phoenix Coyotes, stealing the puck from Radim Vrbata and slapping one home on a short breakaway.
We hear a lot about the Hawks’ core. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith are essentially the guys that make up that group, as of right now. It’s time to put Bolland in there with them.
There’s no doubt about how important Bolland is to the Blackhawks anymore. He’s been described as “the glue to the team”, and that may not be a very big stretch. Bolland is a crucial part of this lineup, and it was evident when the team was without him on Opening Night, in Dallas.
We’ve seen what he can do in his defensive role. As a defensive forward, Bolland has shown he can shut down any forward unit in the NHL. Ask Vancouver or San Jose about that one. But if Bolland can keep up the pace on his offensive game, it could be hard to keep the Selke Trophy away from The Rat.
The biggest question mark surrounding Bolland is his health. It’s imperative that Bolland stay healthy this year, something he’s been unable to do the last two seasons. Either way, it appears that Dave Bolland has finally arrived for the Chicago Blackhawks. Let’s hope he can stick around for a while.