Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
By Tracey Myers
The Chicago Blackhawks checking line has one big concern when they take to the ice: theyre supposed to stop the oppositions best scorers. And lately, that has been working just fine for Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani.
But looking at those box scores lately you notice something else. Those guys who are stalling scorers on one end have been the big offensive producers on the other.
Yes, the checkers are on a hot streak. Theyre generating turnovers. Theyre spending as much, if not more time, in the oppositions zone scoring than in their own defending. And the results are speaking for themselves.
So why is the checking line so score-happy right now?
Were just playing it simple and smart, said Bolland, who had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks 4-1 victory over Nashville on Wednesday. With Bick and (Pisani), we just keep it simple. We dont make anything too flashy out there. We just get the puck and go.
Theyve been going at a clip lately, with Bickells productivity garnering the most bells and whistles. The rookie who went from fourth liner to healthy scratch back to fourth liner to emerging checker has points in seven of his last eight games, including goals in four of his last five. When asked whats led to his offensive outburst, Bickell said whats quickly becoming the Blackhawks mantra: Im keeping it simple.
Bolland has three points in his last two games. Pisani - whos been back for three games - has a point in each one of them. Troy Brouwer, who was on that right side when Pisani was hurt, had points in three of his last four games with the then "Killer Bs" line.
Playing simple has gotten the Blackhawks through this stretch without top scorers Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, and its benefited that checking line, too. It doesnt hurt that Bickell, Bolland and Pisani had built up some chemistry earlier this season before Pisani was sidelined through early December. The three feed off each other and off whatever the opposition is giving them, which right now seems to be quite a bit.
When you get that assignment you get quality ice time and you get juicier opportunities when youre going out there against top guys, coach Joel Quenneville said. Theyre finding the net.
Bolland said Wednesday night that were finding our way right now, were finding our roles. He was talking about the Blackhawks as a whole right now, but he couldve easily been talking about his own line.
Be it the Red Wings, Kings or Predators offensive threats, Bolland and company are shutting them down. Theyre comfortable with each others game and it shows. And that lines scoring has balanced the Blackhawks and taken pressure off the top line to be the game-in-game-out contributors.
There will probably be some line changes when Hossa and Kane return. That Bickell-Bolland-Pisani line shouldnt be one of them.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.