TAMPA, Fla. —There’s no stationary bike on the bench. No corner in which you can stretch and jog in place. So David Rundblad simply sat there, wedged into his spot between other guys huffing and puffing and chugging water, for eight full minutes of play — nearly 20 minutes of real time — before he hopped over the boards for his first shift in the second period of Game 1 on Wednesday. Just as he did between his first and second shifts in the first period. Just as he’ll continue to do for as long as he’s fortunate enough to be in the Blackhawks lineup during the Stanley Cup Final.
“Yeah, it’s hard,” Rundblad said. “You never know when the next shift is going to come, so you’re sitting there for many minutes, and you get a little bit cold. It’s important to try to stay in the game, and not start thinking about something else. Just focus on the game and you’re fine.”
There’s been a lot of talk about how Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya are handling the massive amount of minutes they’re playing. But hardly playing at all presents its own challenge. Rundblad entered Game 2 averaging a little more than six minutes per game since re-entering the lineup for Game 6 against Anaheim. Kyle Cumiskey played just 5:01 in Game 1.
Joel Quenneville’s a former NHL defenseman himself, and he always says the more you play, the better you play. So it’s not easy for Rundblad and Cumiskey.
“It’s definitely a little tougher when you’re not playing a whole lot,” Cumiskey said. “But I’m just making the best of the situation. Every shift I go out there, I try to make it a solid one.”
They’re not complaining, of course. Both were healthy scratches for the first two rounds, and are happy to get any ice time they can. And in the wake of Michal Rozsival’s broken ankle and Kimmo Timonen’s ineffective play, the two have helped stabilize the back end, even if they don’t play a whole lot.
“I give them credit, they’ve done a good job,” Quenneville said. “Their minutes haven’t been high, but they’ve been useful minutes in games. Spells the top guys that are out there a little bit more. I think their game has been simple and safe and reliable. They have some quickness and directness to getting out of our zone, as well. They’ve been fine.”
But one of them is getting benched soon. Quenneville said rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk will be back in the lineup at some point in the series, and it seems likely he’ll play in either Game 3 or 4 in Chicago. Van Riemsdyk can play on both the left and right side, so he can take either player’s spot. Game 2 was yet another audition for Rundblad and Cumiskey — only this time, it’s to keep their job.
“I kind of feel that’s the way it always is,” Cumiskey shrugged. “You’ve got to be consistent and know that there are other good D-men that are always ready to step up and take your place.”
Rundblad’s not worried, either. Just like when he’s sitting for an extended stretch, he’s not letting his mind wander.
“I haven’t even thought about it at all,” he said. “There’s enough to think about. It’s the Stanley Cup Final. That’s big enough to focus on. I haven’t thought about it at all, and I’m not going to, either. Just take every shift I get and try to play as good as I can. Then we’ll see what happens.”