October 19 2013 01:56PM
When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for David Bolland at the draft, I praised the move as essentially being risk-free with the Leafs giving up absolutely nothing of value and acquiring a player that had been effective in 2010 and in 2011 but whose play had ultimately fallen off in the last couple of seasons. The Leafs brass said some ridiculous things in the summer about how Bolland just needed a chance in "more of a prominent role" (despite playing with Patrick Kane in Chicago last season!) and Steve Kasper even went onto say that Bolland was a "regular contributor" despite being on the lower end of Chicago forwards in several metrics, like points per 60 minutes (9th out of 12) shots per 60 minutes (12th) and point-contribution rate on on-ice goals (10th).
There were reasons to like the trade, just as there are reasons to like a fast food hamburger late at night. But the Leafs seemed to advertise Bolland like a fast food joint would advertise a hamburger in posters and on TV: looking much bigger, healthier and juicier than the real-life counterpart. The hamburger is still good, but it's a disappointment when compared to the advertising. So far this year, Bolland has played like the advertised hamburger.
Bolland is somewhat the focus in his return to Chicago tonight. He played 399 games with the Blackhawks including playoffs, and in two of those games, he was lifting the Stanley Cup at the end. He was a fairly prolific member of the 2010 team and definitely a player that fans of not-Chicago teams hated. He had a good career there.
Despite the high expectations, Bolland has met them. He may not continue to play this level, but we may as well take what we have. Bolland's 1.80 points per 60 is much higher than his 1.13 last season in Chicago. It's also not entirely due to a high shooting percentage. While on the ice in Chicago last year, the Blackhawks converted 8.6% of shots, whereas the Leafs this year are shooting 8.7% with Bolland on the ice. The difference in points comes from Bolland's more active role in the offence.
You wouldn't expect a player's Corsi rate to improve when going from Chicago (real good puck-possession team) to Toronto (not very good puck-possession team) but the Hawks were taking 44.8% of shot attempts with Bolland on the ice last season, and the Leafs are at 48.0% with Bolland on the ice this season.
It's too early to make inferences as to why this has happened, particularly since Bolland seems to be dumping and chasing more than he is skating the puck into the zone, but I have to think that has more to do with the style of game Randy Carlyle wants him to play rather than the level of play Bolland is capable of. After a few more games we should have a better impression of the type of player Bolland is going to be, but considering how many Leaf wingers have been injured this season, he's done a good job of pushing the play north with multiple different linemates.
An area of concern of mine so far this season is the number of shots the Leafs are giving up on the PK, but that doesn't appear to be related to Bolland's play:
|PK Time on Ice||Shots Against/20 MIN|
What on earth is biting Bozak in this situation? He was fine on the PK last season.
MAPLE LEAFS AND BLACKHAWKS LINEUPS
The Leafs didn't skate today, but James van Riemsdyk made the trip to Chicago. We won't know either lineup until puck drop, so it's hardly worthwhile going through them at this point. We're on the road, which should mean a lot less work for the Leafs fourth line, knowing Carlyle's tendencies.
At any rate, here's the Blackhawks roster:
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger
Brandon Bollig - Brandon Pirri - Joakim Nordstrom
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank
After rolling with Bickell on a top line with Toews and Kane, Joel Quenneville is mixing around the combinations, per dailyfaceoff via Tim Sassone. Leafs are on the road, so they won't be able to get the power-on-power matchups that Carlyle loves, and it's likely that Phil Kessel will see a lot of ice-time against Oduya and Hjalmarsson, who have so far faced off against the best opposition forwards.
"Looks like Jonathan Bernier vs. Corey Crawford tonight" so says Paul Hendrick. Not too surprising. James Reimer could be on the bench for this one, although I really do think they should have left him at home for the day, just in case there is something wrong with his head that they haven't found. Still, it's unlikely he comes into the game today. The blooper-reel goal aside for Bernier against Carolina, he still wound up with a quality appearance and other than that one stinker against Edmonton, has been nails to start the season.
The Leafs and the Blackhawks will drop the puck at 7:00 Eastern, live on CBC. Don't forget to sign up for StreakCred.