PHILADELPHIA -- Back in the winter, when Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland was home on the couch watching games following back surgery, he admits to wondering if he'd ever be able to get up again.
Wednesday night, with the Stanley Cup proudly held over his head, all those concerns, all the worry -- and most of all, all the pain -- were gone.
"When I lifted that Cup, that back injury went away," Bolland told NHL.com. "Nothing hurt anymore."
Bolland felt nothing but pain for a long time due to a bulging disc. His back issues started last season, but he played through them. When medication to alleviate the pain during the offseason didn't help and he no longer could play through the pain, surgery became his only option.
He went under the knife Nov. 10 and spent three months watching and hoping. He finally returned on Feb. 3, but had just 4 goals and 10 points in the final 26 games.
Bolland said even after he returned, he wasn't 100 percent. It wasn't until the playoffs before he finally felt like the player who was the Hawks' top lock-down center as well as an offensive threat who scored 19 goals in the regular season and 12 points in 17 playoff games in 2008-09.
"Toward the playoffs, that's when everything happened," Bolland said. "That's when all my skills and everything was coming back, the way I was playing last year."
"He's played against top lines the last two years and always seems to get the better of them," teammate Andrew Ladd told NHL.com. "It took a few games to get back into what he wanted to do, but come playoff time he was hitting full stride and he was a big reason we won."
Bolland was the designated defender who shut down the Sedin twins in the second round against Vancouver and turned Joe Thornton into the Jumbo-sized Invisible Man in the Western Conference Finals.
In the Stanley Cup Final, he had 3 goals and 6 points, including an assist on Patrick Sharp's second-period goal. For the postseason, he had 16 points in 22 games -- the same number he totaled in 39 regular-season games.
"He's been great for us all playoffs," Sharp said. "He saved his best hockey for the end of the year."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org