A lot has been written about Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Dave Bolland in these playoffs.
I’ll admit that I didn’t see much of Bolland against Nashville, but he was generally matched up against the Sedins in Round Two and played a lot against Joe Thornton in Round 3. He sparked a rare blow-up from Daniel Sedin in the Vancouver series and got under Thornton’s skin to such a degree that Thornton repeatedly went after the Chicago pest.
Despite that, those players got their chances against the Bolland line. In Round 2, Bolland did a good job limiting them, but was still out-chanced 19 to 22. Round 3 was a similar story, with Bolland out-chanced 14 to 24. That’s a total of 33 to 46 over those two rounds, meaning that when Bolland was on the ice, the opposition had 58% of the scoring chances.
On the surface, those are hideous numbers, and it’s tempting to say that Bolland’s been getting a lot of undeserved attention. Certainly, if he were playing fairly normal minutes, that would be the case.
But Bolland isn’t playing anything close to normal minutes. His line leads the Blackhawks in Quality of Competition, which fits with what we’ve just said about matching up against Thornton and the Sedin twins. More importantly though, he’s always sent out for defensive zone draws, and very rarely sent out for offensive zone draws.
According to Behind the Net, for every offensive zone draw Bolland gets, he’s one the ice for more than three defensive zone draws – a 24.0% offensive zone start rate. That’s a staggering total – the NHL’s regular season leader (min 10GP) was Dave Scatchard, and his rate was 37.8%.
In fact, even without Bolland’s surprising scoring touch and even if he weren’t constantly getting tough matchups, he’d deserve praise. Toss those things in, and he’s a major contributor to Chicago’s success, an even more important piece than he’s been made out to be so far.