-- It's somewhat amazing that Dave Bolland
doesn't have an identity crisis.
A scorer in junior hockey, Bolland is now being celebrated as the checking center who helped put the Chicago Blackhawks
into the Stanley Cup Final.
"When I got to London, I didn't know anything about my defensive zone, didn't even know what it looked like," Bolland told NHL.com in discussing his three-year tenure with the OHL's Knights, which ended with a 57-goal showing in 2005-06. "Now I am basically known as a defensive forward."
And a pretty good one at that, according to scouting reports.
"He's great defensively and I think that is where he gets most of his scoring chances from. He's frustrating to play against," Chicago center John Madden
, a pretty good checking center himself, told NHL.com. "When someone is defensively sound and never out of position, they are hard to play against."
Here's another dichotomy: Almost hesitant with his words in public, Bolland never shuts up, it seems, on the ice.
"He doesn't stop chirping and he doesn't stop talking," Kris Versteeg
, his linemate on Chicago's checking line, told NHL.com.
"He's a little disturber out there and runs around and gets under people's skin," teammate Brian Bickell told NHL.com. Bickell played against Bolland in junior hockey.
It's almost impossible to pigeonhole the 23-year-old forward. Heck, the Blackhawks can't even agree on a nickname for their emerging star.
"He's a little rat and you can tell him that," Versteeg said, adopting "The Rat" nickname first proposed by teammate Ben Eager
"I prefer 'The Greyhound,'" Madden told NHL.com. "He looks like a greyhound out there and he just doesn't stop.
"I had the 'Mad Dog' (nickname) and he's 'The Greyhound.' You need a dog nickname; it's way better than 'The Rat.'"
Bolland just laughs at all the hubbub about the nickname war as the Blackhawks prepare for Saturday's opening game of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers
(8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"Whichever one it is, I just go along with it," he said, although he allows that he likes "The Greyhound" better.
But Bolland is far more serious about his game and his responsibilities on the ice. He takes his duties very seriously and wants to reward the faith that has been placed in him by the team's coaching staff. He knows coach Joel Quenneville
has entrusted him with one of the most important jobs on the team. In Chicago's puck-possession game, the checking center obviously plays a key role in denying the opposition time in the offensive zone and regaining possession to fuel the transition game.
For Quenneville, giving Bolland the assignment was almost a no-brainer, despite Bolland's lack of a resume for the job.
"I think when you look at him as a hockey player, his instincts are high-end," Quenneville said. "His thought process; he's got a lot more skill than maybe you see. I think that having that responsibility more of a defensive role; he's able to not just stop top guys or control top guys, but he can also score and make plays and handle the puck pretty well.
"He's got some speed. He's got real good anticipation of the game. But he's done a real good job in probably slowing down two of the top centers in our game in the last two rounds."
Bolland has certainly done that. In the second round, Vancouver's Henrik Sedin
was held to a pair of goals in a six-game ouster. Last round, San Jose's Joe Thornton
could not manage a goal in a four-game sweep. Bolland was so good in that matchup that he drove Thornton to distraction in more than one highlight-reel incident.
Now he most likely will face the task of shutting down Philadelphia's top line, centered by Mike Richards
, the Flyers' young, dynamic center. Richards was dominant in the last round against Montreal, including a dominant three-point night in Game 5.
Yet Bolland insists he is ready for the challenge, ready to do his part in ending Chicago's 49-year Stanley Cup drought.
"I think when it comes to the playoffs, that's when a lot of players step up," Bolland told NHL.com. "The regular season is a big season for everybody, but I think when playoffs come around, it's a lot bigger -- a bigger stage. That's when most guys want to come out. I think doing it now is big. This is when I like to play."