We'll never know if the Blackhawks would be in a better spot in their first-round playoff series with Vancouver if Dave Bolland had been healthy from the start of it.
But with Bolland back in the lineup Tuesday after missing the first three games with a concussion that had kept him sidelined since March 9, the Hawks more resembled their battle-tested playoff selves.
It was Bolland who played such a key role in the run to the Stanley Cup last season, and he was in the middle of much of the action Tuesday night in Game 4 as the Hawks stayed alive with a 7-2 rout of the Canucks at the United Center.
Bolland had a goal and 3 assists to help send the series back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Thursday.
“Our lineup looks pretty good when you put him in there,” Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. “It fills a huge hole that other guys don't have to do his job. It allows Jonathan (Toews) and Patrick (Sharp) some relief and takes minutes away from those guys.”
Still, sour Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo wasn't buying into Bolland as a difference maker for the Hawks.
“He's just like any of their players,” Luongo said. “We've got to play him hard. We've got to play him physical. That's what made us win the first three games.
“Obviously he helped them out tonight, but he's not a guy who will change a series.”
Perhaps even more important than Bolland's points, he shut down Henrik (minus-4) and Daniel Sedin (minus-3) along with linemates Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell.
“Bolly gave us a lot of juice and a lot of energy,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He's going against the top two guys in the league and they have a synergy that probably nobody else can compare to in the game.”
This was hardly the Dave Bolland show.
Bickell made a sweet move around Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to beat Luongo and put the Hawks ahead 1:43 into the game, Then after it was 1-1, the Hawks got goals from defensemen Campbell and Duncan Keith 17 seconds apart early in the second period.
Hawks defenseman John Scott couldn't resist sticking it to Bieksa for the way he misplayed Bickell's goal.
“Oh, Bieksa, what a joke,” Scott said. “The guy was talking about how I was getting walked wide and then he gets beat wide the first shift of the game. I guess he needs to take skating lessons, not me.”
Bolland's goal at 14:45 of the second period made it 4-1 and resulted from Frolik's hard forecheck. Frolik joined the scoring party moments later to cap the Hawks' 4-goal second period.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault left Luongo in long after the suspense in this one was over, bringing back memories of Game 6 two years ago in the second round when the Hawks lit him up for 7 at the UC in a series clincher.
So will what happened Tuesday have any lingering affects on the Canucks? It's doubtful. You need a short memory in the playoffs, and the Canucks are going home with a chance to end the series in front of their rabid fans at Rogers Arena.
“Anybody going into this series probably didn't think we would sweep this in four,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We had a bad game and we know it, and we're going to get ready for the next one.”
ŸFor more Hawks talk, check out Tim's Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com and follow his Blackhawks reports via Twitter @TimSassone.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.