CHICAGO | Blackhawks management no longer has to scratch their heads about how to make their roster tougher, as they did exiting a disappointing post-Stanley Cup 2010-11 season.
Now they’ve got “sandpaper” guys, big and small, spread across three of their four lines.
Leading off with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is 6-foot-4 Bryan Bickell, big enough to not take anything from anybody. On the third line is diminutive Andrew Shaw, who can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.’ More, please?
Bringing up the rear on the fourth line is a surprisingly skilled winger who has been caught in photos putting up his dukes on ice like a 19th Century John L. Sullivan.
Finally working his way into the regular rotation, Brandon Bollig feels he can sting opponents with both his physicality and his shot.
“Obviously you want guys out there who play all-around games and be physical and provide that presence,” said the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Bollig, 26. “Not only that, but create for the more skilled guys. ... There’s definitely room for someone like me out there.”
Bollig made room by showing more offensive prowess to go along with his fists. He scored the Hawks’ first goal of the season — and his first regular-season tally in the NHL — on Oct. 1 against the Capitals. Several teammates rate Bollig’s left-handed shot the hardest on the Hawks.
Thus he’s gotten off the tollway shuttle from Rockford, where he spent several stints last season around his 25 Hawks contest, including five playoff games.
“The skill part of things was one of the things I was focusing on this summer, really expanding my role on this team,” Bollig said. “I’ve gotten off to a good start. I’ll continue to try to get more ice time and more responsibility whether it be penalty kill or things like that.”
But Bollig won’t forget what got him to the Hawks in the first place, albeit in fits and spurts. He is not in favor of efforts to curb fighting in the NHL.
“It’s no secret that I enjoy that there is a role for an enforcer in the game,” he said. “I think fighting has its place.
“Obviously, the game’s evolved and there’s less of it. There’s no secret about that. For right now, I’m definitely glad there’s a time and a place for me.”
Shaw could score from the start of his Hawks career while playing a pugilist/pest role. He knows exactly the significance Bollig’s ability to throw his body and fists around while occasionally showing a nose for the net.
“He’s always going to have that tough role,” Shaw said. “He’s a tough guy. He always takes care of us when we need him to. And we do the same for him.
“He’s worked really hard on other skills of the game, and you can really tell. He’s going to pop a few more (goals) here, I feel that for sure.”