Paging Dave Bolland: Fourth Line Must Be Solid to Beat Boston

Relegated to fourth line duty, can Bolland rediscover his 2010 form?

If there is one player that can be accurately chastised for being a non-entity during the playoffs for the Chicago Blackhawks, it is center Dave Bolland.

He did miss the team’s first round series against the Minnesota Wild, but even after his return, his impact has been minimal. His defensive instincts seem to be a bit off. His offensive output is putrid, with only one assist in 12 games (in fact, he only has that one assist in his last 19 games, including regular season tilts).

Perhaps most troubling of all though is his seeming lack of willingness to shoot the puck. During Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, Bolland had a couple of opportunities to shoot the biscuit during his 24+ minutes of ice time in the double overtime thriller, but instead opted to make lower percentage passes that inevitably didn’t lead to any offense.

With that in mind, it isn’t surprising that in the last seven playoff games for Bolland, the center has two shots on goal, and those both game in Game 1 of the conference finals.

All of these numbers are awful, and no amount of advanced metric citation could erase that. There are a couple of those statistics that could provide a better glimpse into why Bolland is failing so often on the offensive side of the puck.

During the postseason, Bolland is only starting 31.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. That number started out closer to 50 percent when he was bouncing between the second and third line center roles, but it has fallen off the table after his demotion to the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.

Another number to keep an eye on is his Corsi Quality of Competition, a measure of the average Corsi of the players a player is shifted against (the higher the number, the tougher the competition). Bolland’s Corsi QoC is currently sitting at -1.367, which doesn’t look good but is actually the best such mark on the Blackhawks. That means Bolland is getting some tough defensive assignments, mostly in road games when the home team can dictate the matchups off the faceoff. His minus-3 in the postseason may not look good at first blush, but when one considers how often Bolland is expected to play defense against good players, it makes more sense.

In the end, though, the Blackhawks realistically should expect more out of Bolland. He was a key component of their Stanley Cup championship squad in 2010, and even though his defense hasn’t been that bad, it would be helpful to his team’s chances if he could be a better facilitator for Frolik and Kruger.

An improved fourth line will be important against a Bruins team with plenty of depth in its own right, and in order to get maximum efficacy out of the bottom line, Bolland will need to step up.   

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