Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix Coyotes
The facts: 8, CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: November 21, 2011 10:36AM
Dave Bolland never has been one to buy into hype.
The Blackhawks’ third-line
center and occasional pest always has seemed to prefer being on the forecheck than in the limelight.
But if he and linemates Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik keep up their scorching start to the season, Bolland is going to find it hard to avoid the attention.
Bolland was asked if he thought the trio formed the best third line in the league after it combined for four points and a plus-4 rating in a 5-2 victory Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
‘‘I don’t know,’’ Bolland said. ‘‘I think as of right now we could be, and I think we’ll keep it that way. We’re going to just keep on rolling and playing harder and playing our game.’’
Last season, it took Bolland 23 games to score his third goal. This season, he has blazed past that mark with four goals and five points in his first four games.
It was Bolland’s short-handed goal against the Coyotes that gave the Hawks the breathing room they were looking before the entire third line combined to create Bickell’s goal that sealed the victory.
‘‘All three of us just click,’’ Bolland said. ‘‘Sometimes you just have that line that clicks, and we’re rolling. [Bickell] with his big body and [Frolik] with his good vision and good speed, playing with those two guys has been tremendous.’’
Bickell has two goals and two
assists in the Hawks’ first five games, and Frolik has two assists. As a group, the trio has 11 points and a plus-7 rating while playing against the other team’s best attackers.
‘‘When you play against the
other team’s best players, they don’t like to [play] defense that much,’’ Frolik said. ‘‘It’s a good opportunity for us to make something out of it, and it’s something we like [to do].”
No one would accuse coach Joel Quenneville of being afraid to mix up his lines, but the Bickell-
Bolland-Frolik grouping has been a constant since Quenneville paired them together in the playoffs last season.
The Hawks have won six of their eight games with Bolland playing between Bickell and Frolik, and both losses — Game 7 of the playoff series against the Vancouver Cauncks and the 3-2 shootout loss Saturday to the Boston Bruins — have come after regulation.
‘‘That line has always been good,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We like their role and, basically, the
accomplishments they get done on a game-to-game basis.’’
And all the offense the line is producing isn’t coming at the
expense of its defensive responsibilities. Bolland, Bickell and Frolik have been on the ice as a unit for only one even-strength goal through five games.
‘‘Like [Quenneville] says, you play defense, you’re going to get your chances,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘I know the top lines are mostly about offense and not too much
defense. But if we play defense first, we’re going to get our chances, and we’ve been capitalizing.
‘‘Our chemistry right now is really good. It’s going to be a fun year.’’