Although he appeared in just 19 regular-season games this year and none so far in the postseason, it might be time for Chicago Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers to make his playoff debut in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins on Monday.
Bollig wasn’t able to corral a pass from Brent Seabrook in overtime Saturday, and the Bruins pounced for the winning goal in the ensuing sequence. While Bollig wasn’t around to talk about it after the game, his confidence must have taken a hit, though coach Joel Quenneville’s assessment that it was a bang-bang play was spot on.
No one should be beating Bollig up over it, but it would be understandable if he was a little gun-shy the next time he takes the ice -- so maybe he shouldn’t.
That’s where Mayers might come in. Yes, it seems like a no-brainer to insert Stalberg back in the lineup, but a case could just as easily be made for the 38-year-old winger. Quenneville likes some size on that line, considering Bollig played the first two games, and the Hawks are going into TD Garden -- a hostile environment -- for the first time this season.
Mayers is a stabilizing force, a veteran who is beloved in the locker room. It’s a button to push for Quenneville. Teammates will rally around that kind of decision, and Mayers can use the adrenaline of the moment to overcome any quickness or speed issues. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a faceoff option from the right side, something that line doesn’t have with Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger.
Stalberg doesn’t provide any of that, but he does provide speed. We know what that can do, so undoubtedly it’s not a cut-and-dry decision.
Still, the emotional lift to see Mayers make his debut this postseason can’t be underestimated. Considering he played in fewer than half of the team’s regular-season games, appearing in a finals contest would allow his name to be engraved on the Stanley Cup if the Hawks go on to win the championship. That’s not the reason to play him, but it adds a layer to the emotional lift for the team. It simply might need something to combat the Boston crowd and atmosphere. A guy like Mayers hitting the ice to annoy or possibly take on Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara or Shawn Thornton could be a big lift.
Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn’t have these emotional buttons to push. Due to injuries, or lack of depth, he doesn’t have a move to make that can raise the intensity of his team outside the normal ones.
Maybe Quenneville saves this kind of change for Game 4 in case the Hawks lose Game 3, but either way, Mayers should be considered for a postseason role soon.