Bolland enjoys being 'The Rat'

Dave Bolland will be one of the key players for the Chicago Blackhawks heading into Game 2 of the...

Dave Bolland will be one of the key players for the Chicago Blackhawks heading into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

CHICAGO - Dave Bolland, the Chicago Blackhawks centre who is an all-round pain with the sass, tried to get into the head of the head Philadelphia Flyer, captain Mike Richards, head right off the opening faceoff of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.

Before it, actually.

“I tried staring him down, just to see if he would say something,” said Bolland, who has emerged as a front-line checker and thorn or stick in the side of guys like Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin and San Jose’s Joe Thornton this spring. “But he didn’t say anything.”

Richards will be next on his hit list heading into Game 2 Monday night.

Bolland and the ’Hawks know they got away with one in Game 1, a crazy 6-5 win over the Flyers in which the Flyers managed five goals on the road, didn’t take a penalty and forced Chicago’s top line to go a combined minus-9 and still managed to lose.

Bolland and the rest of the ’Hawks were promising a much different effort Monday night.

His teammates have taken to calling him “The Rat,” - remember Ken “The Rat” Linseman, who was a master at that antagonizing role? - though he prefers “The Greyhound,” a nickname put on him by teammate Ben Eager, the origins of which Bolland would not discuss.

“I call him the rat,” said teammate Patrick Sharp. “He looks like a rat. I know he likes ‘The Greyhound,’ but to me he’s a rat.”

Bolland continues to be an integral part of the ’Hawks May march, back after back surgery cost him most of the regular season, scoring another short-handed goal in Game 1, poking a bouncing puck away from Flyers defenceman Braydon Cobourn at the ’Hawks line and outracing him to the other end.

“I see them bobbling the puck and I go. None of those defencemen can catch me,” he said with a laugh.

Bolland knows what to do with the puck in those situations. He scored 57 goals in 59 games his last year of junior with the London Knights (and added 73 assists for 130 points). He also had 104 penalty minutes.

The guy was a major offensive force for the Knights, but you don’t play for a guy like Dale Hunter without knowing your way back to your own zone. Bolland also learned first-hand what ticks off offensive players, all things which have helped prepare him to evolve into his current identity, disliked by opponents, a kind of persona non-stop grating.

“When I was in junior, I hated playing against a checking line. They’re always poking you, lifting your stick for no reason...I hated it.”

This isn’t the first time he’s crossed sticks with Richards. They played against each other in junior when Richards was with the Kitchener Rangers and a goal by Bolland ended Richards’ junior career.

“He’s a good player. I’ll give him that,” said Richards. “He’s a very smart, intelligent hockey player. I thought we had good looks (Saturday) night. We just didn’t score, did everything but. So, I think persistence is something we need to have as a line and not get discouraged by one or two bad bounces and just keep trying.”

When the opportunity to give Jeff Carter’s stick a whack presented itself, Bolland couldn’t resist, channeling a little Sir Edmund Hillary when explaining why.

“(Carter) said, ‘what was that for?’ and I said, ‘because it was there,’” said Bolland. “It was in my way.”

In the ’Hawks series with the Canucks, Bolland managed to upset the normally placid Scandanavian balance of Sedin, convincing the Swede to punch him in the head.

“He’s got to be right up there,” said Sharp, when asked to evaluate Bolland’s standing in the pest universe. “Any time you can get Daniel Sedin to punch you in the head, that’s worth something.”

Bolland’s been proving his worth.


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