One of the unexpected incidents in last night’s exhibition game against Pittsburgh was the game-tying goal in the third period by Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Brandon Bollig.
Bollig has been better known in his professional career for using his hands more for dishing out knuckle sandwiches and Hertz donuts than goals and assists.
But at this point, Bollig deserves a closer look.
He has a reputation as one of the hardest working players on the Blackhawks – no mean feat, considering he’s in the workout room with the likes of known gymrats Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp.
His hard work has become paying dividends – his skating has improved a great deal, and he’s shown more confidence with the puck.
Now, let me temper all of this. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Brandon Bollig will ever be Al Secord. His skating, while improved, won’t make anyone put down money on a race between him and Duncan Keith. No stick company will hire him to dangle for a video. But if you look back to the 2010 Stanley Cup winning edition of the Blackhawks, he can certainly fill the physical 4th line role that was filled that year by Ben Eager to good effect. And without any data to back it up, I’m just going to go ahead and say he’s smarter than Eager, because I’m pretty sure the sandwich I’m having for lunch is smarter than Ben Eager.
Bollig can be a very valuable asset if he’s able to fill this role. As a player on a one-way contract, he’s getting paid whether he’s on the ice or in the press box. If he can be in the lineup on a regular basis, that gives Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville more flexibility with players like Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc – players who are on two-way deals and can be shuttled back to Rockford without having to clear waivers. This flexibility can come in very handy as the trade deadline nears and Bowman needs to look to address needs that may arise between here and there.
As a 4th liner, Bollig’s basic responsibility will be to not hurt the team. He’ll be an energy guy who, along with fellow likely 4th liners Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, will be looked to for two or three shifts a period at even strength. Kruger emerged last season as an elite penalty killing forward, and Smith will probably have an opportunity on the kill as well, as the departures of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik will mean the younger forwards will get a chance to step in. Bollig won’t get much special teams time – you’ll only see that in blowouts. But he also will be looked to to drop the mitts, something Kruger can’t do, and Smith would draw different dance partners than Bollig will.
So on a team that’s as loaded with stars and superstars as the Blackhawks are, role players like Bollig are the ones who bear the most watching during the preseason and the early going of the regular season.
About the Author: Spent my formative years breathing in the rarified air of the second balcony at Chicago Stadium. Refined my flair for colorful euphemisms in the blue seats at Madison Square Garden. Now a curmudgeon in the 300 level in the United Center. My musings can also be found at Hockeenight.com...and yes, I muse.