David Bolland spent his whole NHL career helping the Chicago Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups and bring hockey back to Chicago. As with any sport though, it is a business and Bolland was another example of the business side of the NHL this past offseason as the Hawks traded the forward to the Toronto Maple Leafs for multiple draft picks.
Saturday, Bolland returned to the United Center in Chicago for the first time since the Stanley Cup playoffs and looked to use his known scrappiness to avenge his former team. During the first TV timeout, the Hawks even honored “the rat”, a nickname Bolland received for his play and the way he bothered other teams. The reunion of sorts was short-lived as two points were on the line in an original six matchup.
For the Blackhawks, coming off of a disappointing shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, Coach Joel Quenneville decided to switch up the lines and mix players around including calling up rookie defenseman Michael Kostka.
To put it simply, Coach Quenneville wanted every single player no matter what kind of status they have to realize he wasn’t happy with the way his team was playing. Coach Q wasn’t afraid to move someone down to a lower line if they were not producing statistically. That included the likes of forward Brian Bickell who before Saturday night’s contest was stone cold and was not scoring like the player we knew in the playoffs last season.
The message was clearly received Saturday night as the Blackhawks outplayed and outcoached the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning 3-1. Bickell started the scoring off in the second period and then rookies Kostka and Brandon Pirri finished the Leafs off by scoring the final two goals. The goal for Kostka was his first career NHL goal and for Pirri his second goal in as many nights, showing that the rookies want to stay up in Chicago for a long time.
If the usual stars like Towes, Kane, Sharp and Hossa continue to produce the way that they are and if the rookies begin to produce, the Hawks can start putting together some victories and take control of a very strong Western Conference. Plus, if the Hawks receive stellar goaltending from Corey Crawford like they did versus the Maple Leafs, this Hawks team will be a tough team to stop.
You never enjoy seeing a coach call out his team to the media, but Coach Q has been around the block a few times. The Stanley Cup hangover is over for this team and it is time to focus on doing big things again.
The Blackhawks begin their first of two games in the Sunshine State on Tuesday evening as they travel to take on the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30pm (Central) and can be seen on CSN-Chicago and Fox Sports-Florida.