Hawks banking on Bolland

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland is aware of the irony.

On Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues the Hawks center had scoring chances galore. He totaled nine shots on net but not one got by the goalie.

Then came the first shift in the next game, on Friday, against the Dallas Stars.

“It was pretty crazy,” Bolland said after practice in Chicago on Saturday. “I couldn’t buy one in that St. Louis game but against Dallas, that first ten seconds, it went it. So, finally.”

Bolland had just one other shot on net but had several good looks as he did against the Blues. He also won 67 percent of his faceoffs, taking 21 draws, the most on the team. If there is any one player on the Hawks who elevates his game come playoff time, it has to be Bolland. He’s a valuable a commodity: A guy who can shut down the other team’s best players while providing offense at the same time.

“When the postseason comes around that’s when the game is [elevated] and the energy is higher,” he said. “I know the postseason, for myself, is a big accomplishment. To be there and play there.”

Bolland doesn’t always generate the headlines for games 1-82, but come spring, that all changes. Over his career, Bolland has averaged 0.53 points per regular-season game. In the playoffs he’s a 0.79 per game point producer.

“Whether it’s the importance of the game or a stricter matchup I think he welcomes that challenge and he elevates his game,” Joel Quenneville said. “Things are going well for him right now.”

A year ago at this time, things weren’t going so well. Bolland -- like current teammates Jonathan Toews and Steve Montador -- was recovering from a concussion. The uncertainty in the recovery process is something Bolland knows all too well.

“It was about the same time of the year,” Bolland said. “It’s one of those things that you do reminisce. I can still remember those feelings of what he’s [Toews] going through and what I went through. It’s a tough time.”

What Bolland went through, and more than likely Toews as well, is a recurrence of the concussion symptoms. One day the workouts are going fine, and the next, the problems return.

“You have headaches and a little bit of relapse,” Bolland explained. “You never know when it’s going to hit you or when you’re going to get those symptoms. You could be scot-free for a day and you think the next day you’re going to be playing and you get those symptoms again. It’s a roller coaster.”

And the unpredictable nature of the recovery process is part of the mystery. Bolland wasn’t able to play until Game 4 of the postseason last year, with his team already trailing the Vancouver Canucks three games to none. Many thought he should not have dressed considering the long recovery from the concussion. But he was cleared and he was ready.

“It’s one of those things you have to take your time with,” Bolland explained. “You come back too early you can screw yourself around…I could not have been ready. It could have taken me a little longer, it could have taken me shorter. You just don’t know.”

And that’s what faces Toews. The unknown.

So until the captain returns, a guy like Bolland may have to raise his game even more. His wingers, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw, are counting on it.

“He’s a playoff kind of player,” Bickell said. “There is something about him. He gets under the other team’s skin. He scores, he does everything.”

Bolland is bothered by his minus-7 rating this season. He’s talked openly about not liking that “minus column” but come playoff time no one thinks Bolland isn’t going to bring his best. He usually does.

“That line when they nail it, they’re shutting down the other team’s top line and you get some production off of it,” Quenneville said. “You’re going to have some success.”

If it’s spring you can count on it from the man they call the “rat.” Bolland is needed now more than ever before.

“I like this time of year,” he said. “It’s the playoffs. Everyone elevates their game.”


• Quenneville said there was no change in Toews’ status. He did not practice on Saturday and there is no timetable for a return.

Corey Crawford will start in net against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

• All line combinations and defensive pairings were the same on Saturday as were in Friday’s game. Expect the same lineup for Sunday’s game against the Capitals.