Blackhawks Notes: Bolland keeps rolling

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Blackhawks Notes: Bolland keeps rolling

Monday, May 31, 2010
3:06 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO You wouldnt think that in a Game 1 that featured 10 goals in the first 40 minutes that the Chicago Blackhawks would have thought to do any scoreboard watching.

But even in a game featuring four ties and three lead changes, as time started ticking short and a 6-5 lead had fallen in their laps, the Redshirts couldnt help but hope to bleed the puckand watch the clock.

As usual, Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg put one of the more humorous wraps on the end of Game 1.

Im looking up at the clock in the third and its eight minutes, 7:59, 7:58 he said. Im thinking, Im not going to live to see the end of this.

Defenseman Brent Sopel, already embarrassed over the unanticipated explosion of offense his blueliners allowed from the Philadelphia Flyers, wasnt counting the clock, however.

No way, I wasnt thinking we could just hold the lead and get out of there, Sopel said. I was thinking, Oh my God, whats going to happen next?

In a game where no lead is safe, there is no player who wants more to skate off the ice having stolen a win than the goalie. And Blackhawks netminder Antti Niemi, always honest after games, was itching to exit stage right: In the third, I was pretty much waiting for the end of the game.

Both sides anticipate a more buttoned-down Game 2 tonightbut that doesnt preclude some scoreboard watching once the team gets a lead. If youre at the United Center, bring those binocs and see whos gazing heavenward.

One guy who wont be is the chronically down-low Dustin Byfuglien. No line of excited questioning got Big Buff to admit he was hoping the clock would speed up at the end of Game 1.

The most the brusque forward would share about the end of Chicagos first Stanley Cup triumph in more than 37 years, in characteristic deadpan? The bench was pretty crazy.

Bolly Just Keeps Rolling
Speaking of deadpan Blackhawks, you simply cant rattle inimitable center Dave Bolland, who is hitting his stride at just the right time this season.

Offensively, Bolland has six goals through 17 games in the playoffs, equaling his season output (in 39 games). Two of those tallies have been shorthanded, including Saturdays first-period shortie that gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the Stanley Cup Finals. Defensively, the fifth-year man has centered Chicagos erstwhile checking line, (flanked by Kris Versteeg and, alternately, Tomas Kopecky or Andrew Ladd), making life miserable for forwards from the Sedin Twins to Joe Thornton.

But ask Bolland to chat about it any of his numerous recent accomplishments and, well, youre just going to get an aw-shucks grin and little elucidation. Heres the wordiest answers gathered from Bolly since media day:

On the relative mellowness of Game 1: It wasnt very feisty, I dont know why. It was pretty calm. Nothing really happened.

On his sudden, steely skill on shorthanded attempts: I dont know about that. I couldnt tell you what I was doing out there. I was trying to go five-hole on Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton, but I missed. It tipped off his stick and he let it in.

On Blackhawks coach Joel Quennevilles mentoring: Weve talked a lot. Hes helped me out when my speed or stick-handling wasnt there. Hed call me in, give me little pointers. His confidence was reassuring.

On what he watched while recuperating from back surgery during the season: DVRd shows like Nurse Jackie, Weeds, Californication.

The Human Soundbite
No one will ever confuse Blackhawks grinder Adam Burish with Wayne Gretzky on the ice, but the gritty forward is an All-Star in the dressing room, never failing to entertain with honest and unfiltered comments.

Today, Burish was asked about what the NHL can do to make hockey even more popular in the United States, and he ran off a number of answers, concluding with this assumptive gem: In what other sport can you punch a guy in the face or chase another guy around with a weapon in your hands?

Surprisingly, as dressing room time ran short it seemed Burish hadnt yet been asked whether hed sized up his series rival yet, a Philadelphian who hed target for extra checks, jawing andor fighting.

No, Ive still been trying, Burish said with a smile. Aaron Asham and I exchanged a few words after all the Dustin Byfuglien stuff in the first, but that died down. Im still working on it. The series isnt aggressive enough yet. But it will be.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”