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Blackhawks’ Dave Bolland returns to play the hero

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



The first thing you do today is walk into your boss’ office and inform him or her that you will not be working for the next five weeks.

It’s important for you to stress that although this might look like a terrible blow to company productivity, it actually is a positive. You will come back from your hiatus a new person, and your co-workers, whose morale of late has resembled a stalled cold front, will be warmed by your triumphant return.

When your boss starts to call Human Resources to get you the mental-health counseling you so desperately need, you will smile and produce a photo of Dave Bolland from Tuesday night’s Blackhawks-Canucks playoff game.

You can choose the one where he beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo with a nasty wrist shot in the second period. You can pick any of the three assists he had. Or, if you’re looking for something a little fiercer, the hit on Henrik Sedin during Bolland’s first shift would look good in a frame.

See what can happen with a little rest?

With the Hawks’ playoff life dangling by a piece of hockey-stick tape, Bolland returned to help the Hawks crush the Canucks 7-2 on Tuesday night at the United Center. Apparently, the effects of the concussion he suffered in a game March 9 make him believe he’s Mark Messier. No one with a rooting interest in the Hawks should disabuse him of this notion.

Last year’s Stanley Cup champions still trail this series 3-1, but at least they get a trip to Vancouver for Game 5 on Thursday. That was very much in doubt when the day began.

You’d like to think the Hawks, on the ropes as they were, would have come out swinging whether Bolland was back in uniform or not. But remember, he was the one who irritated the Sedin brothers to no end in the Western Conference semifinals last year.

Bolland missed 17 games, which we now know is the perfect preparation to have the playoff game of your life. It’s the only thing to be deduced after watching what Bolland did to the Canucks.

A four-point night in his return is one way to write the story. Another would be to make it a little bit more believable.

‘‘Your first game back is always the tough one,’’ he said afterward, almost in wonder.

Bolland said he spent the better part of three weeks inside his home, isolated by choice, not feeling like going out with friends. He had headaches and ‘‘fuzziness.’’

‘‘It was pretty dreadful, going through some period of depression,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s really tough. I can feel for Sid [Crosby] and a few of the guys that are out right now because it’s a tough process. You never know when you’re going to snap out of that concussion.’’

He said there were times he thought he wouldn’t play again this season. But his head started feeling clear about a week ago. He passed a battery of tests Tuesday morning, allowing him to get back on the ice in the evening.

‘‘Huge boost,’’ Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Bolland’s return.

The backbreaker in this game was Duncan Keith’s goal in the second period. It came 17 seconds after Brian Campbell’s goal, and it gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead. After Keith scored, he twirled his right arm as if he were waving the checkered flag at Indy. There was a lot of pent-up emotion released in that gesture, for him and the team.

And who got an assist on Keith’s goal? That’s right: Bolland.

He also made a perfect pass to set up Michael Frolik’s breakaway goal late in the period.

Hawks goalie Corey Crawford, meanwhile, got his first career playoff victory. Even Marian Hossa picked up his first point of the series.

Such was the fury of the Hawks’ offensive onslaught that the Canucks replaced Luongo with Cory Schneider about four minutes into the third period. It was 6-1 at that point.

Luongo didn’t seem overly impressed by Bolland.

‘‘Obviously he helped them out tonight, but he’s not a guy who will change a series,’’ he said.

Maybe not, but Bolland helped change a team’s outlook almost single-handedly. There was life from these Hawks, who had been playing as if they had undergone a confidence-ectomy before this series began. They came out hitting, something that was missing in the first three games. They put constant pressure on Luongo, who hadn’t seen this version of the Hawks since last season.

It doesn’t mean last season’s version of the Blackhawks is back. It does mean the current Hawks are alive — no small thing.

‘‘I love playing these games,’’ Bolland said. ‘‘These are games when they count. This is when you see big players come out.’’

Bolland was one of them Tuesday night. Missing five weeks of action is not the traditional route to the best playoff game of one’s career, but it worked for Bolland. This could be the start of a revolution.



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