Bolland

Before I start looking ahead, I wanted to take a look back at Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Leafs, when Dave Bolland made his first trip to the United Center as a visitor and the whirlwind of emotions that went along with it.

We’ve been through this before when key members of the 2010 Cup team returned to the UC after being jettisoned, but Bolland hitting the ice in a Leafs sweater felt very different – for me, at least. Him being dealt on draft night probably was the least surprising transaction Stan Bowman has made after Bolland had a rather disappointing 2013 regular season.

He battled injuries – which was becoming all too familiar – and his inability to supplant himself as a consistant second-line center who could win draws became tired. There’s no question Bolland is talented, and his playoff performances from seasons past along with his lively personality kept some on his side. But when it came down to it, we all knew he had to go. It was merely a formality.

Had Bolland not scored the clinching goal in Game 6 against Boston, which may end up going down as the most famous goal in Blackhawks history – surpassing that of Patrick Kane in 2010 – due to the situation, the sadness we felt watching him go likely wouldn’t have reached the heights it did. But he did work his ass off to get in front of the net and beat Tuukka Rask 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell’s equalizer, and he did give us that famous celebration of tossing his gloves to the ice before Frolik jumped into his arms. We’re not going to forget that. Ever. And that’s why seeing him on the ice Saturday wearing Toronto colors felt more strange than maybe it should have.

Does that video tribute get played, sans the goal obviously, had he not delivered one of the greatest moments in franchise history? Doubtful. The standing ovation that followed? Maybe, but I can’t imagine the game is stopped to give him that much attention. The fact is, his 399 games donning the Indian head, including the playoffs, will be defined by the last few seconds he wore it.

That’s all well and good, and he gave us one of the best sports memories of our lives, but we have to realize his previous deficiencies were what sent him packing for Canada. It was tough Saturday, and I’m glad it’s finally over.

Now, for the week ahead….

News came early Sunday that the Blackhawks sent Joakim Nordstrom down to Rockford, leaving Chicago with just one Joakim for at least the time being. He didn’t play all that bad Saturday, making at least one noticeably solid play on the penalty kill working hard to get the puck out of the zone along the boards – sorry, can’t remember the exact moment, but I remember taking note of it – and having his second career goal nullified after Bickell was whistled for goaltender interference.

It’s an understatement to say we all were shocked when he made the team in the first place, and to this moment I’m still wondering what the logic was behind choosing him over players like Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin. The fact is that Nordstrom needs more seasoning on the minor-league level before he can expect to stay. He got caught in bad spots when on the kill – especially against Tampa Bay – and just doesn’t seem up to speed for the NHL game. He wasn’t getting all that many minutes, and he certainly didn’t deserve more. I’m assuming Smith is going to take those minutes, as the Hawks haven’t yet made a corresponding move before heading to Florida.

The Panthers and our friends Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell await Tuesday fresh off ending a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota on Saturday. Reigning Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes scored in the farting contest for the win. And if you’re wondering why the Panthers aren’t instituting any silly ticket policy to keep Blackhawks fans out of the building, well, here’s why.

What can we expect from Florida? Probably that they’ll give up a lot of goals to a Hawks offense that completely outmatches them on nearly every front. It turned to Tim Thomas to try and solve their uncertainty in net, and all he’s done is go 2-3-0 with a 3.36 GAA and .901 save percentage. The Panthers’ 32 goals allowed are second-worst in the NHL to Edmonton’s 36, and they’ve allowed a power-play goal in each of their last three games.

Huberdeau is solid scorer, No. 2 overall pick Aleksander Barkov can be dangerous and has three goals and three assists, and Boyes’ four goals are nearly half of what he had all of last season while playing all 48 with the Islanders. Florida dealt Pittsburgh its only loss pending tonight’s result against Colorado while scoring six goals, but that was probably more of a fluke than anything. The Blackhawks have too stout of a defense and will control the possession while racing them up and down the ice. I’ll be surprised if the ‘Hawks get caught up at all in this one, but that’s why the games are played.

The Blackhawks will get a chance to avenge their Oct. 5 shootout loss to the Lightning when they travel to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist in the first contest and had 10 points in his first six games, but he’s been battling a foot injury and has gone without a point in his last two games, which includes a 5-0 loss to Boston on Saturday. It was only the second time in Tampa’s last 29 games it has been shut out – both coming against the Bruins.

Ben Bishop was stellar in the first meeting making 37 saves as the ‘Hawks outshot Tampa 39-16, and there’s a chance we’ll see him in net again. He’s 5-1-0 with a 2.11 GAA.

The Blackhawks end the week with a home matchup Saturday against Minnesota. Check back often as one of us will be around to talk about each of these contests before and after.

GO HAWKS!