Bryan Bickell setting the tone for Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) celebrates his first period goal against the Detriot Red Wings with teammates Patrick Kane (88) and Michal Handzus (26) during Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal playoff hockey game in Chicago, Illinois May 25, 2013. (REUTERS)
Bryan Bickell can be a scary-looking dude.
The Chicago Blackhawks winger is the type of player clubs clamour over.
A prototypical power forward, Bickell is making a difference in these playoffs for the Blackhawks, both with his physical play and his ability to find the net.
“He’s been effective, looking back at the last couple of playoff years, Bick usually finds a way to impact games,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “We notice him because he gets in on the forecheck, he gets a big hit early in games to set the tone. His production is kind of a bonus for us.
“But we like his speed, and all year long, he’s been there for us and has been consistent for us and that line has been effective as well. Everybody looks for those types of players and they usually jump out at you at playoff time.”
Bickell, 27, set the tone in the Blackhawks’ Game 5 victory Saturday with a number of big hits while scoring the opening goal in a 4-1 win.
The 6-foot-4, 233-pound winger out of Bowmanville, Ont., has four goals so far in these playoffs, three more than Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
“He had a couple of big hits to get us going and the first goal was huge too,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. “He’s played great throughout the playoffs. A physical presence was huge for him to bring, because there’s not too many guys that can bring that. He’s definitely a guy that we kind of count on to give us big hits and change the momentum a little bit with those hits.”
Bickell’s biggest hit in Game 5 came on Red Wings winger Joakim Andersson in front of the penalty box. Bickell planted Andersson into the glass with a punishing hit in the first period.
“He got his shoulder into my chest,” said Andersson. “I lost my breath for a couple of seconds, but it was fine. I felt it a little bit the next morning, but a lot of guys feel that way after a game, the next morning.”
Selected by the Blackhawks in the second round – 41 overall – of the 2004 NHL draft, Bickell spent the better part of three seasons in the American Hockey League before making the jump to the NHL full time three seasons ago.
He scored 17 goals in his first full season with the Blackhawks, chipping in nine during this lockout-shortened campaign.
“He had a great year and he’s had an even better playoffs,” said Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad. “He’s been a big part of why our team is having success and we’re happy for him. You saw that last game with his physicality and he’s been scoring goals, he’s been a huge help for us.”
Playing on the third line for the majority of the season, Bickell has been moved up in the lineup during the playoffs due to his play.
Heading into Game 6 Monday of the Western Conference semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings, he was playing with Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa on the Blackhawks’ second line.
The goal he scored in Game 5 was a result of a turnover created by Handzus, which led to Bickell depositing a rebound after a scramble in front. Bickell actually broke the net camera with his shot which sent the puck ricocheting into the corner.
“It’s kind of funny, I knew it went into the middle of the net, then I kind of hesitated because (Brent Seabrook) went to go get the puck in the corner,” Bickell said. “It’s funny to break the net cam, I saw cool pictures from it. Hopefully I won’t get billed for it.”
NOTES: Blackhawks winger Jamal Mayers was fined half a day's pay for shooting pucks at the Red Wings net during warm-up in Game 5. It works out to around $1,600. The ‘Hawks haven’t used Mayers in these playoffs.