May 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks centerDave Bolland
(36) checks Detroit Red Wings defensemanBrendan Smith
(2) during the first period in game five of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
One of the players that often goes overlooked as a key element to our beloved Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup victories is Dave Bolland. While playing for the Blackhawks, Bolland wasn’t really known for making the highlight reel (save for his 17 second, Stanley Cup winning goal in 2013), but nonetheless his contributions to the team’s success were paramount, and presently the Hawks need another player to assume this critical role Bolland left vacant after he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bolland’s pivotal role on the Blackhawks was perhaps the least tangible. Some called him a checking forward, but that’s a bit too simplistic a label. A more proper title for Bolland’s role on the Hawks was a shutdown forward, and in this role, he excelled.
During the playoffs, Bolland’s made his presence particularly felt; he all but completely neutralized high-powered opposing forwards such as the Sedin Sisters (Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin) and Joe Thornton. By not allowing the big guns on opposing team’s arsenal to make their full impact, Bolland helped the Blackhawks’ chances for winning games greatly increase.
So how exactly was Bolland such an effective shutdown forward? At 6’ 180 lbs., Bolland wasn’t exactly a one-man wrecking crew (though he could certainly throw big body checks), but he knew how to use his body to effectively dispense physical harassment (both legally and illegally) that kept opposing star players off their game. Yet more importantly, Bolland did this without spending significant time in the penalty box.
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Currently, the Blackhawks are lacking in a Bolland-type shutdown forward. The primary candidates to fill the role Bolland left have thus far been Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig. Shaw certainly dishes out plenty of bodywork, but also amasses plenty of stupid penalties to neutralize any benefit his physicality may bring. Bollig was more or less a goon that had a minimal offensive impact to justify his spot in the line-up. Thus, the role of shutdown forward on the Hawks is still vacant.
Bolland earned the nickname “The Rat” for a reason: he was a major irritant to opposing teams and could do a lot of damage if you turned your back on him.
There are certainly other forwards such as Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith, that could step into this role, but that will remain to be seen. Regardless, unsung as its importance may be, the Hawks need another Rat-like shutdown forward in the vein of Dave Bolland in order to return to their championship dynamic.
FOR THE DAGGER!