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X-Factor: Bolland's versatility key Hawks component

by Dan Rosen / Chicago Blackhawks
Chase Agnello-Dean / Chicago Blackhawks

There are two ways Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville feels he can use center Dave Bolland. One puts him in the spotlight, the other more in the shadows, a place where Bolland has found most of his success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

No matter where Quenneville slots Bolland, Chicago's ultimate success or failure this spring partly hinges on how he performs in his given role. It has been that way since 2009.

"The playoffs are when you need to be at the top of your game," said Bolland, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. "If you're not [at the top of your game] in the playoffs, then what's the point, really? Once you get the taste of hoisting the Stanley Cup once, you want to do it again."

Bolland has hoisted it before and historically he's been at the top of his game in the playoffs. He has 37 points in 49 games, including 16 in 22 games to help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup three years ago.

However, he's typically been a third-line center, a player relied upon more for his ability to turn strong defense into productive offense, to send a dagger into the opposition with a goal scored against its best forwards.

He's done it remarkably well; just ask the Sedins in Vancouver or any number of forwards who played for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. Bolland was the pest they couldn't get away from because he'd beat them on the ice then they'd have to face questions about him from the media after the game.

Bolland may be asked to be the Blackhawks' third-line center this postseason, but it'll be a different role than he played during the regular season.

When healthy (he missed 13 games), Bolland was the second-line center, skating between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. He was the only inconsistent player in Chicago's top-six, mainly because he was trying to adjust to his new role.

Bolland finished the season with 14 points and a minus-7 rating in 35 games.

"I'm still trying to adapt to it," he said. "It took me a little bit of time to adapt to that third-line center [role]. It takes time."

Quenneville isn't sure if he wants to invest any more time this season.

It's possible Quenneville starts the playoffs with Michal Handzus between Kane and Sharp on the second line, but that doesn't mean Bolland is any less important for Chicago to make a Cup run.

If he's the third-line center, he'll have to revert to his role as a defensive stopper and offensive specialist, a role he has perfected.

If he's the second-line center, he'll have to adapt and score to round out Chicago's top six and provide the team with center depth that the opposition deems to be dangerous.

"He's a big part of the lineup," Kane said. "He can play pretty much any situation, any role you give him, whether it's the shut-down role or an offensive role. He's a big part of the lineup, for sure."

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