Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks have some offensive depth. No lie. True thing. The area that nearly ruined the defending Stanley Cup champions after the salary-cap slaughter has saved them in their miraculous comeback against Vancouver.
It starts, of course, with the Game 4 return of Dave Bolland, which is when this turnaround began because apparently Bolland was born in a manger. Or perhaps he’s just mangy as he chops his way through another spring of torturing the Sedin twins. In the two games before Bolland’s return, Henrik and Daniel Sedin had nine points. In the last three games, the Sedins have three points and are a minus-13. Bolland, meanwhile, has six points and is a plus-6.
Bolland’s apparent Conn Smythe tour has allowed coach Joel Quenneville to move Patrick Sharp to center on a dangerous third line behind the Jonathan Toews and Bolland units. Suddenly, it’s not all on Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane. Heck, Toews hasn’t even scored in this series, and yet, the Hawks are on the verge of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a three-games-to-none deficit. Toews hasn’t even scored, and yet, the Hawks won their third straight elimination game Sunday on goals from Bolland, Michael Frolik, Ben Smith and Bryan Bickell.
Frolik has two goals and five points. Smith has three goals. Even Viktor Stalberg, who has Patrick Kane’s speed and John Scott’s hands, has a goal. Bickell had two goals before wrist surgery, but the good news is there appears to be some depth behind this new-found depth. If Tomas Kopecky is healthy, then Quenneville makes the easy move with the two-time Cup champion and crease-crashing irritant. If Kopecky can’t go, then there’s veteran fourth-liner Fernando Pisani, who, by the way, has 15 goals in 32 career playoff games.
The Hawks have come a long way from all those Jack Skille questions in October, eh?
Suddenly, Quenneville has options. He’s always going to change lines, but now he has choices. Good choices. He can load up Toews, Kane and Sharp the way he did late in Game 6, and still have dangerous lines he can roll, such as the new combination of Bolland, Smith and Marian Hossa that did something rather important on Sunday. Happened in overtime. Perhaps you heard.
Whatever, in the glorious spring of 2010, we’d be talking about Hawks depth in the form of Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien. I’m not saying this is last year, but some of it is starting to look wonderfully familiar.
For what it’s worth, Marty Turco, Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell are the only Hawks who have played in a Game 7. Twelve Canucks have done it.
Mike Gillis apparently is Canadian for Phil Jackson. Gillis said he isn’t sure “how you explain the discrepancy’’ of power-play opportunities late in the series, and I’m thinking, your players quit in the middle of Game 4 and even earlier in Game 5, so how much respect do you think you deserve?
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said goalie Roberto Luongo will start in Game 7, which I guess means that Cory Schneider will finish.
Luongo said Schneider is “just as good as I am,'' and wondering, then why are you making $10 million?