2010 Stanley Cup finals: Dave Bolland's 'checking line' makes a huge impact for Chicago

1 Comment

bollandshg.jpgThe one thing that separates the Chicago Blackhawks from the rest of the league – aside from that horrible, horrible, horrible “Chelsea Dagger” goal song – is their slap-you-in-the-face depth. Say what you will about Brian Campbell, you’re doing pretty well when he’s (maybe) your third best blueliner. After you get past the Toews and Kanes, there’s the Hossas, Byfugliens and Sharps.

But in Game 1, the team went even deeper down their depth chart to their so-called “checking line” to blow through the Flyers defense in a sloppy but entertaining affair. NHL.com spotlights that dominant Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd/Tomas Kopecky combo.

“You can call them a checking line,” Hawks center Patrick Sharp said, “but they’ve all got the ability to put the puck in the net, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.”

Their skill makes them different. It also makes them effective.

The standout player is Dave Bolland – and not just because he’s been scoring shorthanded goals like hot cakes lately. I have to admit, when the Blackhawks signed Bolland last summer, I thought it was yet another example of the team’s inability to part with a quality (but replaceable) player amid growing salary cap worries. Instead, he’s been one of the team’s most indispensable players, profoundly frustrating the likes of Joe Thornton and Daniel Sedin like few before him with a combination of pest-like behavior and lock-on defense. Mark Spector had a great column on Bolland at Sportsnet.ca.

He not only neutralized Flyers No. 1 centre Mike Richards in Game 1, but Bolland’s shorthanded breakaway goal was part of a two-point, plus-3 night. Richards, in 22:44 of ice time, had no points, just three shots on goal, and was minus-2.

“I just play tough on him. Everyone hates when … you’re always around them, always in their skates, hitting their sticks, doing little things,” Boland said. “A lot of guys hate it. Everyone hates it, really.”

Let’s face it: Everyone hates HIM, really.

If your job is to shut down the opposing team’s star players, it’s usually a good sign if they hate you. That means you are impeding – perhaps closing down – their game and possibly getting in their head. Frustration leads to penalties, turnovers and maybe even glory.

The checkers might not get many Conn Smythe votes, but the Blackhawks aren’t winning the Cup on the strength of Jonathan Toews and other stars alone. Their supporting role players have made a big impact in every series … even when they’re not enraging Swedish ginger twins.

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

3 Comments

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

4 Comments

Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

2 Comments

Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

12 Comments

Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.