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.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.