Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Four

Blackhawks hope that Dave Bolland can produce his best (and healthiest) regular season yet

Stanley Cup champions often have their fair share of unsung heroes and Dave Bolland qualified as one during the Chicago Blackhawks’ impressive 2010 championship run. Bolland hounded top forwards such as Joe Thornton and the Sedin twins while scoring an impressive 16 points in 22 games during the 2010 playoffs, including two big shorthanded goals. He didn’t get Conn Smythe hype, but Bolland did the dirty work to open things up for Chicago’s stars to dominate on the game’s biggest stages.

It seemed like a “coming out party” for the defensive center, but injuries keep stopping him from showing his true value over the long haul. Off-season back surgery limited him just to 37 games during the 2009-10 regular season while concussions issues kept him out for months last season, even forcing him to miss the first three games of Chicago’s up-and-down series with the Vancouver Canucks.

While it’s probably a bit much to attribute the Blackhawks’ near-come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the return of Bolland, he made an undeniable impact from Game 4 and on, tallying six points in four games as the Hawks fell just short of an incredible comeback.

Some might wonder if Bolland simply saves his best for the biggest games, but the fact of the matter is that Blackhawks have only enjoyed one true regular season with the two-way center (a 19-goal, 47-point output in 81 games in 08-09). Bolland and the Blackhawks hope that next season is healthy, breakout campaign for Bolland – and he’s certainly putting in the work to make that happen.

Bolland’s return in Game 4 sparked an impressive comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 – which the Hawks lost in overtime on a goal by the Canucks’ Alexandre Burrows. It was just enough of a taste to keep Bolland hungry all summer for the upcoming season, which will start with training camp in about three weeks.

“That was probably the worst sports injury I’ve ever had, because some guys say it’s a week or two weeks (out) … and the next thing you know I’m out for a month or a month-and-a-half and we’re in the playoffs,” Bolland said before playing in the recent Blackhawks Alumni Golf Outing at Medinah Country Club. “It was something that really dragged on. For me, going into the season it is motivation after coming out of the Vancouver series and losing. I got a strong series with them and coming into this season will be great.”

Preliminary indications are that he’ll be slotted in a third line, checking center type role. Bolland’s solid defensive play, agitating style and occasionally offensive outbursts make him ideal for that job.

It’s expected that he’ll fall behind Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp down the middle, but Joel Quenneville is known for at least two things: singing poorly and mixing up his line combinations on the fly. Bolland might not be ideal as the second center, but there might be times when he’s placed in that spot.

Wherever he shows up, the Blackhawks just hope that he’ll be healthy enough to be out there – which isn’t a guarantee considering his troubles during the last two seasons. Ultimately, the Blackhawks’ goal of rising back to elite contender status might hinge on the health and performances of Bolland and other lesser known contributors.

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

Jarret Stoll, Mats Zuccarello
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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win. They’ve spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.

This post will be updated if there’s video of that staggering sequence.

Welcome back, Babs: Red Wings chase Bernier

Mike Babcock
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Mike Babcock admitted that there might be a painful transformation as he tries to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His old friends made that abundantly, painfully clear on Friday.

As of this writing, the Detroit Red Wings are up 4-0 on the Buds. Justin Abdelkader just completed a hat trick with James Reimer in net, so the subplot isn’t just about Jonathan Bernier having another tough start.

The big story might just be Detroit’s varied new line of Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin (who scored his first career goal) and Henrik Zetterberg. At the moment, they’ve combined for seven points.

This post will be updated if Detroit’s tribute video to Babcock surfaces.

Really, though, this beating has been about as ugly as this blanket so far.