From an outsider’s perspective, it would be easy to think the Chicago Blackhawks are on the road and on the ropes.
The geographical aspect of that inference isn’t up for debate, as the Hawks are one game into a stretch of six straight away from home. But despite the fact the defending champs are still just a single point clear of ninth place in the bunged up West, Dave Bolland said he and his Hawks teammates are maintaining a calm confidence when it comes to securing a post-season seed.
“We’re going to be there,” he said. “We all know that.”
They also know it won’t be easy, especially with 19 of their remaining 31 games on the road. But Bolland believes the Hawks will rise to the occasion, which is what championship-caliber teams tend to do.
The 24-year-old’s year has mirrored his team’s a bit in that it hasn’t always gone smoothly, but the best may be yet to come. Bolland missed more than half of last season battling back issues, but his tenacious checking in a third-line center role was crucial to Chicago’s successful run to the Cup and his eight goals and 16 points in 22 post-season games didn’t hurt matters, either.
Sweeping off-season changes meant more was expected from everybody in Chicago, but Bolland had a tough start to this year, scoring just once through 22 contests, while missing a handful of games with a rib injury.
But those struggles are starting to get buried under some stellar play of late. Bolland has six goals and nine points over his past eight games as he and the Hawks start to make their push. His capacity in Chicago is such that Bolland’s primary concern remains blanketing other teams’ top lines, but there’s no doubt he has the ability to chip in offensively more than the average third-liner.
One Blackhawk who has certainly made good on his offensive potential is Patrick Sharp, who is on pace for 42 goals after averaging 27 the past four years.
“He’s patient, he’s got a great shot,” Bolland said of Sharp. “He always knows where to be when the puck is around – he’s sneaky. And coming down that wing he’s got a great wrist shot and he’s fooled a lot of goalies with it.”
Nobody is about to peg Bolland as a 40-goal man, but there is a bit of an interesting precedent with Sharp. Both are terrific skaters who initially showed value as players who could be counted on to take care of business in their own zone. But Bolland scored 130 points in 59 games in his final Ontario League season with the London Knights, a strong indication there’s some untapped touch in those hands of his. Just like Sharp.
“He is that mold, he has that skill to play in the defensive zone, but he has taken that extra step or extra few steps to take his game to something higher,” Bolland said. “That’s something I want to do, too.”
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