Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Bollig Is Earning His Keep on the Fourth Line

Jon FromiSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2013

Brandon Bollig is holding up his part of the Blackhawks fourth line this season.
Brandon Bollig is holding up his part of the Blackhawks fourth line this season.Bill Smith/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig entered the NHL for one reason—his willingness to drop the gloves. The rugged fourth-liner is now showing some different facets to his game that have earned him some increased ice time.

Earning respect for his game instead of his fists may take awhile, however.

Here's a scenario for your consideration: Chicago beat Winnipeg, 5-1, on Saturday, but not included among the game's three stars was a player who contributed two points, as well as the game-winning goal.

If that player was, say, Marcus Kruger, you'd wonder why his effort wasn't recognized. However, because that player was Bollig, it's a lot easier to dismiss his contributions to the win.

Bollig sent a bullet over Ondrej Pavelec's stick early in the second period against the Jets. He also played a career-high 12:28, logging his goal and an assist. He was credited with three shots and a pair of hits, good enough to tie for the team-high in both categories.

Bollig joined Kruger as a plus-three for the afternoon to pace the 'Hawks. So, who were the game's three stars? Patrick Sharp (goal, plus-one), Jonathan Toews (two shots on goal, plus-one) and Winnipeg's Michael Frolik (assist, plus-one).

The easy response is to say that Bollig is nowhere near the player that Sharp and Toews is for Chicago. There is no question that is the case and I'm not implying otherwise.

However, if Tazer had the line that Bollig did in Winnipeg, he just might have been elected mayor on the spot. Why no love, or at least some grudging respect, for a fourth-liner who had a big hand in Chicago's victory?

Bollig added an assist to Ben Smith in addition to his game-winning goal Saturday in Winnipeg.
Bollig added an assist to Ben Smith in addition to his game-winning goal Saturday in Winnipeg.Marianne Helm/Getty Images

I don't think we should pencil in a lot of multi-point nights for Bollig this season, but there is no denying that when he gets a regular shift, as opposed to a five-minute dance cameo, Bollig is holding his own. In 15 games, he has four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four skater rating.

You can point out that there are a lot of players who could best Bollig's numbers if given the opportunity. You may well be correct.

Like it or not, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has it in his mind to have the 26-year-old wing in the lineup on a regular basis for his physical presence. Bollig is right behind Andrew Shaw for the team lead with 41 hits on the season.

Bollig lacks the talent that Jeremy Morin or Ben Smith possess. However, Bollig has a legitimate shot, works hard and has avoided meaningless fights despite receiving invites several times this season.

Of Bollig's 27 penalty minutes this season, 17 have come against the Blues in the aftermath of Kruger's boarding by Roman Polak. His bout with Polak has been his only fight of the season and was definitely not of the pre-arranged variety.

A fourth line of Bollig, Kruger and Smith has produced for the 'Hawks recently. Quenneville hasn't been afraid to send that line out in defensive situations. They have put together some impressive shifts in the offensive zone as well.

Bollig seems to realize that, in today's NHL, there is little room for one-dimensional pugilists. He is taking steps to develop into a player who can fill a bigger role when given the chance.