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Brandon Bollig, Blackhawks agree to three-year contract extension

TUESDAY

AVALANCHE
AT BLACKHAWKS

The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: April 5, 2014 6:20AM



Like so many other players, in the hyperbolic world of Twitter, Brandon Bollig is either the worst hockey player in history or a criminally underappreciated gem.

So when the Blackhawks
announced Monday that Bollig had signed a three-year contract extension worth an average of $1.25 million a season, Bollig took to Twitter to thank everyone for their support before snarking, ‘‘ . . . now cue the haters.’’

‘‘I know they’re out there,’’ Bollig said with a laugh. ‘‘I see the stuff. It’s just funny to let them know I do see it. I’m not too worried about it.’’

The fact is, Bollig has established himself as a reliable, capable, every-day player. He has played in every game this season, posting six goals and six assists while playing left wing on the Hawks’ fourth line, which has emerged as their checking line.

It was Bollig, along with Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, who was out there against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s Bollig’s line that takes the big faceoffs in the defensive zone. It’s Bollig’s line that plays crucial minutes in close games.

Bollig played in only 25 regular-season and five playoff games last season as the Hawks’ enforcer,
averaging eight minutes and racking up five fights (plus 13 in Rockford). He has played all 62 games this season, averaging 10 minutes in a key role, with only three fights. It’s the development coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman told him they wanted to see last spring.

‘‘They knew I was more than a guy who could go out there and play a couple of minutes a night and just fight the other team’s heavyweight,’’ Bollig said. ‘‘And I’m glad they had that confidence in me.’’

Bollig started having that same confidence in himself in training camp, when he scored a couple of goals and started to earn
Quenneville’s trust. He talked
repeatedly about trying to expand his role and become more than just a goon.

‘‘Those one-dimensional tough guys have a tough existence in
today’s game,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘So he’s established himself in a short amount of time and in the right way.’’

Smith said Bollig’s confidence has grown throughout the season, particularly as a shooter. Bollig has a strong, heavy wrister that he showed off in practice Monday, beating Antti Raanta and Corey Crawford with a couple of impressive shots. But any goals he scores are a bonus. He, Smith and Kruger have established themselves as a reliable shutdown line. And it was his defense and physical play, not his wrists or fists, that earned him an extension he said he never dreamed of.

‘‘The way our role has expanded and the fact that we’re out there against somebody like Malkin or Crosby, some of the best players in the world, it’s a great feeling and it’s humbling,’’ Bollig said. ‘‘It’s been working out, and it worked out better than I could have imagined.’’

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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