It was a total team effort in a 7-2 victory for the 'Hawks, but it was hard to ignore the contributions of Dave Bolland.
Bolland was playing in his first game back from a concussion that had kept him out since March 10th. One might have expected him to be a tiny bit rusty being thrust into playoff action after missing almost six weeks, but that wasn’t the case at all.
The Mimico, Ontario-native had four points, was a plus-four and helped nearly shut down Vancouver’s top line in the Chicago victory. Bolland was everywhere for the Blackhawks, and was deservedly named the first star of the hockey game.
He assisted on the 'Hawks' first goal by Byran Bickell to get things started. But the most memorable moment of the night for the 24-year-old was his timely goal in the second period.
The goal put his team up 4-1 and put the game pretty much out of reach for the Canucks.
There’s something about Bolland and the Canucks that brings out the best in his game and the worst in the Canucks.
Last year, when the Blackhawks and Canucks met in the second round, he did the unthinkable: He got under the skin of the seemingly unflappable Sedin twins. He won face-offs, scored timely goals and caused angry outbursts along with unsportsmanlike penalties from the twins.
Even tonight, while Henrik and Daniel Sedin didn’t appear to be frustrated by Bolland, they finished the game at minus-four and minus-three respectively.
Perhaps it’s just the playoffs in general that bring out the best in Bolland. In 40 career playoff games, he now has 32 points—an average of 0.80 points per game. Compare that to his career regular season average of just 0.53 points per game and there's something to be said about Bolland's big game abilities.
Call him the Robert Horry of the NHL. He’s one of those third-line role players who contributes nicely in the regular season, but doesn’t put up a lot of points. He waits until the postseason to do his damage and the Blackhawks can thank him for that tonight.
It will be a tough hill for the Chicago Blackhawks to climb in order to come back and actually win this series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
But at least their good luck charm against the Canucks is back in the lineup and appears to be better than ever.