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Bolland's checking is frustrating Sharks

Wednesday, 05.19.2010 / 9:30 AM / News
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com senior writer
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Bolland\'s checking is frustrating Sharks
Dave Bolland\'s work centering Chicago\'s checking unit is drawing praise from his coach and teammates -- and hacks and whacks from frustrated San Jose Sharks.
Dave Bollland's "pesky" play has helped keep the Sharks' scorers in line through two games.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Dave Bolland wants to know if Joe Thornton thought his glove was the puck. Why else would Thornton take a pretty good whack at his wrists before the official could even drop the puck for a faceoff?

"He went in for the draw and when the ref drops the puck you're supposed to go for the puck and he went for the wrist," Bolland cracked. "I think he got mixed up and went for the wrong thing. I think he just got mixed up."

Probably not.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan tried to explain Thornton's slash on Bolland's wrist with 11:46 to play in the third period as a set play. He said that Thornton told him he was trying to time the drop so he could whack the puck on net from the left circle.

"We've seen that before where he times it and tries to shoot it," McLellan said. "It's a tactic that Joe has. It ended up being a little quick and being on the hands."

There was an entirely different feeling about the slash inside the Blackhawks dressing room, especially from the victim.

Bolland feels Thornton's slash was an obvious sign of frustration from the big centerman. And, you know what, it wouldn't be all that surprising if Thornton is simply just fed up with Bolland by now.

Chicago's pesky checking-line center has been Thornton's biggest nightmare through two games. Thornton didn't talk about Bolland specifically after Game 2, but he's got to have some hatred for him by now.

"If there is always a guy on you and picking at your stick and taking the puck from you, everybody gets mad, right?" Bolland said. "Nobody likes a guy doing that."

Bolland does it better than most in the NHL now. Along with Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg, he's helped turn Chicago's third line into the sticky thorn that won't go away.

Even though he didn't have the final change, Joel Quenneville did everything in his power to get Bolland, Ladd and Versteeg on the ice against Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau in the two games in San Jose. The checkers won the battle by limiting the Sharks' Big Three to one meaningless even-strength goal.

Thornton wasn't even on the ice for it, so he couldn't pull up his plus-minus rating, which is now a team-worst minus-10. Heatley is a minus-5 and Marleau is a minus-3, though he did have both of San Jose's goals Tuesday night.

It'll be even harder for McLellan to find a way to free Thornton, Marleau and Heatley from the grasp of Bolland and the Hawks' checking wingers in Games 3 and 4 at United Center -- the Hawks get the last change and can match their checking unit against the Sharks' big line.

"It's fun, a good time, a good role and we like to have fun with it," Bolland said. "We're just playing hard, picking up their sticks. We're not really getting in their face, but all night we were just picking their sticks and we had a third man back. We were great at getting back. We just played hard."

All Thornton said about Bolland and his linemates is, "It's a battle all night." You can't blame him if he didn't want to talk about any frustration seeping into his game, but anyone watching can deduce that the big guy is a little peeved.

Not only did Thornton slash Bolland's wrists before the puck was dropped on that would-be faceoffs, but he also tried to take on both Bolland and John Madden at the end of the game when the circus broke out and officials Stephen Walkom and Kelly Sutherland assessed 18 minutes in penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct to Ryane Clowe.

"We're just being hard on them," Bolland said. "That's all we're doing and they're just getting frustrated. They can't take it."

Bolland hasn't even found the task to be all that challenging.

"I don't think it's that difficult," he said.

Probably because it's nothing new to him.

Even last year, when Martin Havlat was the right wing on the line instead of Versteeg, Quenneville entrusted Bolland to be the irascible checking center who has to find ways to get under the skin of the best forwards on the other team.

He hasn't made too many friends.

"We saw it at the end of the game when a couple of guys were trying to get at Bollie and push him around," Patrick Sharp told NHL.com. "That means he's doing his job."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl






Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer