Before I get to my first “Hawk Thought”, I just want to say that I hope everyone had a very pleasant Thanksgiving. Let’s hope that the Hawks make us all thankful with a decisive victory tonight.
Now to business.
Expectations were very high for Dave Bolland entering the season. Many of us thought that with a full offseason to rest and train he would come into this season not only fully healthy, but ready to take his game to the next level.
And for the few weeks of the season he made us believe it.
But since then Bolland has come crashing back to Earth.
Bolland had a roaring start to the season. In the first four games he had 4 goals and 6 points and was a plus-4. Not only was Bolland on fire but his line was playing so good that a lot of people, including myself, dubbed it “the best third line in hockey”.
But that didn’t last long. His offense dried up and his defense, the signature of his game, just wasn’t as effective. Bolland has only one point in his last nine games. He currently sits with 6 goals and 2 assists and is minus-5.
Some people may point out the fact that Bolland is on pace for 26 goals. But Bolland’s offensive stats are quite deceiving. Of the 6 goals he’s scored, 1 came on the powerplay and 2 came shorthanded. Only 3 have at come even-strength and they all happened in the second and third games of the season.
That’s right folks. Dave Bolland does not have an even strength goal since October 13th against the Winnipeg Jets.
What’s even more scary is how Bolland dragged his linemates down to the point Q separated them. Now I’m not blaming him for Bickell refusing to throw a hit or for Frolik constantly taking ill-advised shots but Bickell and Frolik were much better when playing with a fully effective Bolland. They began struggling when Bolland’s game started to slip and didn’t respond well to new places in the lineup.
Frolik registered 5 of his 7 points and was plus-1 in his first 10 games, when Bolland was playing well. In his last 10 games he has only 2 points and is minus-3.
Bickell follows a similar pattern. He accumulated all 5 of his points in his first 11 games, when Bolland was a rockstar. Since then… well you all know the story. No points in the last ten games, minus-5 and he’s been a healthy scratch.
So how do we explain the disappearance of “the Rat?” We can’t say that it was his injury. Even before that he was slipping a bit. In the 3 games prior to his injury he was a minus-5. He was lit up by Stamkos and had poor outings against both Vancouver and St. Louis (up until he got injured) So its not the injury.
A better explanation could be that Bolland’s struggles are part of a broader problem the Hawks have: they are capable of being great for stretches of time and then they completely fade away. And the reason for this comes down to one thing: compete level. We hear it all the time from Quenneville and the players how “the compete level needs to be better.”
If you ask me, that’s what’s wrong with Bolland. His compete level is much too low right now and has been for some time.
People often say that “Bolland is the glue to this team”. In a way I do believe that, but not because of Bolland himself. The Blackhawks have demonstrated that they can survive without him. I would say that Bolland is the glue to the Hawks because Bolland is the glue to the third line and the Hawks depend on their third line more than most teams do. Bolland’s struggles have left the Hawks with a line that has been completely ineffective on both offense and defense.
In other words, without Bolland, the Hawks essentially are left with only two lines they can depend on offensively and at the same time, lose what has been one of the more effective checking lines in the NHL in the past.
The disappearance of Dave Bolland is a concern because by losing him we essentially lose the productivity of whoever he’s playing with. As I said in my post yesterday, if I were Quenneville I’d keep him with Bickell and Frolik for a while and hope they regain the chemistry that everyone knows that can have but are clearly struggling to find right now.
Hopefully they can find it this afternoon against the Ducks.
Enjoy the game everyone! Go Hawks!