Chicago, IL — As we are but three weeks away from the NHL playoffs it is that time when teams are gearing up for the playoffs. The Blackhawks have only nine games left on their regular season schedule and hopefully will garner themselves a playoff spot. It is also that point of the season for Chicago’s checking line centerman Dave Bolland to make his journey to the dark side.
What do I mean by that? Well everyone knows that when it come to the NHL playoff’s the intensity and the speed of the game is ratcheted up several notches. Every team that you play in the playoffs has a chance to win the Stanley Cup and are talented teams. In order to make it through this type of ardent struggle a team needs more to win, they need an edge. It’s what I call a journey to the dark side.
A team must be willing to sacrifice everything including their bodies to make sure that plays are completed and psychological warfare is waged with the other team. It requires someone who is willing to get dirty sometimes filthy in the oppositions territory. A team needs someone who will do all the little things to drive another teams top line crazy. This person is referred to in hockey parlance as “The Rat” which by the way is one of his nicknames.
It’s no secret Dave Bolland fits this descriptor. There is no one else in a Blackhawks uniform that brings what he does to this team. He is honestly a pain in the ass to other teams. He is relentless with his forechecking, he chirps the other teams stars til they begin to question themselves and yet he is skilled enough to pose an offensive threat when attacking in their zone.
It takes a certain type of person and persona to do this and Dave Bolland has proved he has what it takes. His game elevates in the post season. The Blackhawks will be looking to Bolland again for his skill, intensity and well his being a general nuisance if they are to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The year the Hawks won the Stanley Cup Bolland’s playoff stats were off the charts in goals and assists as compared to the regular season and the Blackhawks will need this again. Last year during the playoffs he was out with injury and missed most of the games. In fact the three games the Hawks lost to the Canucks he was out of the lineup coincidence? Maybe but I think what he brings to the table is something that can not be measure by stats.
Bolland understands that hockey is about emotions and harnessing them to your advantage especially in the playoffs where everything is more fervent and on the line. He knows you need to push the envelope with your foes to the brink yet remain controlled yourself. You need to be a little diabolical and menacing in order to get the other teams best players to doubt themselves when you and your line is on the ice.
This is not a skill most have but one I’m sure most would like. Dave Bolland knows how to push all the right buttons with teams superstars to get them to commit penalties while he remains cool and seemingly victimized. This is something that can not be coached and makes him invaluable to a team. It calls for someone who knows how and when to embrace the dark side in us all.
Chicago Blackhawk fans absolutely adore Dave Bolland for all of these qualities and they know he adds another level to the Blackhawks maybe a more devastating one than their skills. He hurts your psyche as a team. Look what he’s done to the Vancouver Canucks and the Sedins. If he can do that to world-class players like them, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do against playoff neophytes like the St. Louis Blues.
Bolland flat out likes and I think enjoys messing with other teams heads. You hardly ever see him smile when he scores a goal. In fact he almost acts like it is no big deal and an annoyance, why all the fuss. Yet when skirmishes break out and other team’s players commit penalties or get agitated he gets a sinister little smile as he skates away. He knows he has done his job and the task is complete. He got the opposition to do something it did not want to do. Like I said dark.
He has stated that he turns it up a notch himself for the playoffs and the Blackhawks will need him now more than ever to do so. There is uncertainty if team captain and leader Jonathan Toews will be back for the playoffs. This means every advantage the Hawks have will need to be used and Bollands’ mind warfare is certainly one of them.
This year Bolland has played most the regular season with a host of different wingers which could also be impacting his regular season numbers. It’s hard to have high production when the lines timing and chemistry are always changing. This should settle down come play off time though which I think will bode even better for Bolland.
Right now he is centering scrappy Andrew Shaw who is a rookie but, brings some vinegar himself to the line and Bryan Bickell who has a big body if he can learn to use it at the appropriate time could make for a line that could be very disruptive for the opposition yet skilled enough to pitch in with a few goals now and then.
I think the Vancouver Canucks know all to well about Dave Bolland so if the Hawks have to face Vancouver again this year he may have to be the set up man for Shaw or Bickell. A role I’m sure he would not mind as long as the Blackhawks get wins. Dave Bolland’s skills maybe hard to define but he is every much the hero on this team as Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith or Seabrook. He just does it with a sneer and snarl which makes him this teams’ anti-hero. I hope the Hawks make the playoffs this year because this Hawks fan loves journeying to the dark side.