guest contribution from Shelby Bryniarski - editor of Welcome to Hawkey Town
Brandon Bollig is known as the Chicago Blackhawk’s undisputed enforcer, but he just might be the most overlooked and under-appreciated player on the team. Bollig is no Jonathan Toews, but that does not take away any of his due credit, as he has massively improved from the previous season.
During the 2012-2013 lock out shortened season, Bollig played in 25 games for the Blackhawks and did not produce any points. This season, Bollig is one of 10 Blackhawks to play every game and has a total of 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 53 games played.
So the question is: What changed in the 26 year-old to make him transition from throwing punches to taking more shots on goal?
After the most recent Stanley Cup win, Brandon Bollig realized that if he wanted to play a bigger role with the team, rather than just the enforcer role, he’d have to work on several things to become an every night man. With the NHL cracking down on fights and hits, the role of the “enforcer” is dwindling slowly.
In order to compete in a line up filled with so much depth, Bollig would have to advance his role from just throwing punches. During the offseason, Bollig took part in many optional Blackhawks offseason workouts and conditioning programs. He endlessly worked on his skating and skills, which was apparent out of the gate in training camp.
Bollig added a couple of goals during the scrimmages, as well as one during the Training Camp festival. He also tallied 2 goals in the Blackhawks 6 preseason games.
Many fans and critics acknowledged Bollig’s new work ethic, but were still wary on if he could continue the improvement and score his first regular season goal. He silenced his naysayers, scoring the first goal of the 2013-2014 NHL season in the home opener against the Washington Capitals.
From then on, Bollig has continued to improve throughout the season at left wing on the 4th line. With very few exceptions early on, the fourth line has stayed in tact with Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, who all have great chemistry together.
Bollig hasn't completely abandoned his role as the tough guy. He still dropped the gloves 3 times this season, compared to his 5 fights in 25 games with the team last season.
He backed down from a couple of fights, something he wouldn't have normally done the previous season, but he’s realized that his game is changing and it’s not all about dropping the gloves. Though he still brings the physical presence when needed (big hits).
When you think about it, 5 goals really does not sound like a lot, especially in 53 games. But think of it this way, both of Brandon Bollig’s previous two goals were game tying goals during clutch times. His last goal, against the Boston Bruins, was from a very tough angle and tied the game, which eventually sent it to overtime.
He also scored the game winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets earlier in the season. With Bollig’s improvement, his ice time has increased by 20% which has pushed it to an average 10 minutes per game, he sits at 118 hits on the season, which is only 3 hits behind the team leader, Andrew Shaw.
Another thing with Bollig this season is his much improved defensive game. He hasn’t been afraid to come back and help out the D and win some board battles.
He’s no sniper, but Bollig has one of the hardest and most underrated shots on the team, when he gets a clean look.
I’m sure Darcy Kuemper could attest to that. On Thursday night’s game, he took a Brandon Bollig slap shot to the head, which dented his mask so bad, that he was forced to play with Niklas Backstrom’s mask for almost 10 minutes while repairs were made.
If the fourth line is kept together, there will be more goals bouncing Bollig’s way the rest of the season. Bollig’s hard work and nose-to-the-grind attitude have solidified him as a key instrument in the Blackhawk’s success. In the mean time, keep up the good work, B52.
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