Dave Bolland went after Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, trading some pushes and shoves before Abdelkader flipped the Blackhawks forward on his back.
“He got me a little in the groan area,” Bolland said with his trademark grin on Friday. “It’s not a good area to get someone. It’s the playoffs, it’s the way things go. It’s part of the game.”
Fighting isn’t the biggest part of Bolland’s game but getting under opponents’ skin and anchoring the Blackhawks’ checking line is. And he did both of them well when he made his 2013 postseason debut in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night. For Bolland, it was another wait through another injury to get back into action. But he’s back at the time of year he thrives, and he shook off the rust on Wednesday.
“I think the first few shifts were a little bit of an eye opener; just getting back on the ice and into that playoff mode. But we came into our game pretty well,” said Bolland, who was back in his familiar third-line center spot with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on either side. “The first period is always the worst. The speed, after being out for 2 ½ weeks, is a little different than in practice. But it’s just like getting back on the old bike.”
Teammates were appreciative of Bolland’s return, especially defensemen who get some help with his checking work.
“Center men are a defensemen’s best friends, and he was supporting all night,” Brent Seabrook said. “I thought he worked hard and played a good game.”
Having anyone back healthy is always a bonus. When it’s a veteran center, it’s even better. The Blackhawks’ depth was restored at that spot, and Bolland truly looked back to normal on that third line.
“He was a big force,” Patrick Kane said. “He worked hard, he was finishing his hits. I’ve seen him do that before when he gets into the mix of things. That’s what we’re looking for from him. He was a big factor and a guy like that can contribute in so many ways. He plays in all situations; he’s definitely a key guy to have back for sure.”
Bolland was back to form at a time of year he usually is at his best. There’s something about him during the playoffs and shades of that were there in Game 1.
“He’s got that grittiness, that sandpaper that you appreciate and notice,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Thinking on how he plays the game, he puts himself in the right spots offensively and defensively. He has those instincts, and they seem to be elevated at this time of year.”
As far as that third line, they blended together pretty quickly. The trio played together plenty last season, so it was just a matter of reacquainting themselves and their playing styles.
“We had some good chances and we felt good. It felt like we got that chemistry back,” Bickell said. “For his first game back, I thought (Bolland) played pretty well. The first period for our whole team was OK, but the second and third we picked it up, and he had a good second and third, too.”
Bolland is back. As far as his up-and-down health, he’d like to reverse that trend. His raised playoff intensity he’d like to keep.
“It’s just getting back on my own feet,” Bolland said. “It’s frustrating watching (from the sidelines) so it’s just nice to be back on the ice, being back to what I’m doing.”