I’ll admit it, when I first heard that Dave Bolland was being tried out as a second line center at the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp, I nearly had an apoplectic fit. He was incredibly effective as third line center last season but was a bit weak offensively, so he couldn’t possibly work when the top six are usually the fastest and best scoring skaters, right?
After three games, he’s proven me wrong.
Paired with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, Bolland’s two goals bookended the Blackhawks’ 6-4 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, with Sharp throwing a goal in for good measure. Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues showcased an amazing 3-on-0 move by the entire line that took everyone’s breath away and resulted in a goal by Kane. In fact, the entire second line has more combined points than the top line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad, with 11 points over their nine. The top line’s total includes Daniel Carcillo’s lone assist from their season opener, but he was, of course, injured (again).
The fact that Bolland is clicking on the second line is a relief after last season’s mess. It seemed like there was a steady rotation at that position, and at the end of the season there was a huge hole that only speculation could fill. Kane had been in that slot for a while, but he seemed to languish there, and constant switching between center and wing was most likely a factor in his poor points production. He wasn’t physically conditioned to be in that position and burned out too quickly. Kane’s strong offense/weak defense didn’t work, but Bolland’s strong defense/weak offense are a better fit.
I was wrong to think that Bolland couldn’t cut it in the top six. Hopefully the second line will keep working as well as they have. That’ll be one key to the Blackhawks’ success.