Bolland's 2012-13 season was defined by stops and starts because of injuries, and his performance in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs before Monday night at TD Garden was considerably less remarkable than three years prior.
None of that matters now.
Bolland's name will forever be associated with this postseason, and this will be one of the most memorable years of his career. The Blackhawks trailed 2-1 to the Boston Bruins late in Game 6 before Bryan Bickell tied the contest with 1:16 left in regulation.
Seventeen seconds later, Bolland pounced on a rebound near the left post and scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal. It is the first time in League history a Cup-clinching goal has been scored in the 60th minute.
"When don't you dream about it?" Bolland said. "We all dream about scoring that Stanley Cup winner to hoist the Cup, so check that one off the bucket list."
If the Bickell goal wasn't stunning enough, Bolland's tally will make this one of the most memorable clinching contests in Stanley Cup Final history. While most of the people inside TD Garden were still buzzing about Bickell's goal and preparing for a fourth overtime contest in this incredible series, coach Joel Quenneville sent his fourth line onto the ice.
After the faceoff, the puck traveled back and forth to both blue lines before Bolland carried it into the offensive zone. Goaltender Tuukka Rask directed a shot from the right wing by Michael Frolik toward the corner, and the puck ended up along the left wall on the stick of Marcus Kruger.
He guided it back to defenseman Johnny Oduya at the left point for a shot. Frolik tipped the puck en route to the net, and it glanced off the left post before coming to Bolland.
"I think [my eyes] were huge," Bolland said. "They almost popped out of my head."
Chicago forward Patrick Sharp added, "That was a big one. I don't know what he was doing dropping his gloves [in celebration]. There was a minute left, and it was a long minute."
After Bickell's goal, Boston coach Claude Julien changed his defense pairing, but left the same forwards -- his top line -- on the ice for the faceoff. Quenneville decided to go in a different direction, and it proved to be a great move.
"You equalize the game there. They might have been a little tired," Quenneville said. "I could have kept [Chicago's top line] out there, but Bolland, that line hadn't played in five or six minutes, and offensively, defensively, you know you get a contribution all year long [from] all four lines. No matter who you throw out there is capable of making plays. Next play on the wall, cruised back to the point one time and, bang, it's in the net. Kind of the way you had to score in this whole series. The pretty ones weren't there. It was the ugly goals that seemed to work."
Bolland had eight goals and 16 points in 22 postseason games in 2010. He scored big goals and harassed opposing star players, which made him a popular figure in Chicago. When an injured Bolland returned to the lineup after the Vancouver Canucks went ahead 3-0 in the first round the following year, the Blackhawks stormed back with three straight victories to force a Game 7.
Last season, Bolland tied a career high with 19 goals. The 2012-13 campaign was a trying one at times for him. He was out of the lineup at four different points during the regular season with various injuries, including a groin problem that kept him out of the first round of the playoffs.
He's spent most of the three rounds as a third- or fourth-line center after being the No. 2 guy for much of the regular season. Before Game 4 of the Cup Final, Bolland had one goal and three points in 15 playoff contests.
Then, he had an assist in Game 4 and scored the empty-net goal to clinch Game 5.
That was just a preamble for his Game 6 heroics. He scored a goal that changed his and Chicago's season. It will undoubtedly stay with him for the rest of his life.
"This is probably the biggest satisfaction I've ever had," Bolland said. "A hockey season is up and down. I had a roller-coaster year with injuries. Things like that happen. You battle through them and it is the way that you come out of it through the injuries is what matters."
Added Quennville: "[Bolland] is like that. He had one of those years. It looked like he was coming and got hurt, coming and got hurt. His playoffs, he was coming and he was OK. But one thing about [Bolland], the bigger the stage, the better the challenge is, he always welcomes it and rises to it. He's one of those competitors that finds a way to win and now he's a champion twice. I'm happy for him."