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Bryan Bickell’s at it again

May 12, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT

Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus AP

Maybe it’s a seasonal thing.

For the second straight spring, Chicago forward Bryan Bickell has emerged as a playoff sniper — in Sunday’s Game 5 win over Minnesota, he scored his NHL-leading sixth goal of the postseason — but this time, the heroics come after a poor regular season in which he scored just 15 points, missed 20 games to injury (plus some as a healthy scratch) and generally disappointed in the first of a four-year, $16 million extension.

To hear Bickell explain it, though, he hasn’t changed anything from the regular season to playoffs.

“I don’t alter my game based on who we are playing,” Bickell said, per the NHLPA website. “I think for any player it’s about being consistent in every area of your game, working with your linemates to be effective every shift.”

Working with linemates has been key for Bickell, especially lately as he’s replaced the injured Andrew Shaw on Chicago’s top power play unit. He has two goals on the man advantage against the Wild and, as Marian Hossa pointed out, Bickell’s 6-foot-4, 233-pound frame will often yield positive results when put in front of the goal.

“He deserves being on the power play without [Shaw] not being on the first PP in front of the net, and even on the second power play, he’s done a great job,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Daily Herald. “He’s got a couple tip-ins and tonight a big goal by him, so if you put him in front of the net good things happen.”

All of this springtime success will lead to the inevitable question: Why can’t Bickell do this all the time? ‘Hawks fans will no doubt be front-and-center with those queries, as Bickell’s lackadaisical regular-season play can be a lightning rod for criticism, especially in light of his $4 million annual cap hit — which, to be fair, he earned on the strength of last year’s nine-goal, 17-point effort en route to Chicago’s second Stanley Cup in four years.

In fact, it almost sounds like Bickell consciously saves himself for the playoffs.

‘‘If I played like this all through the regular season, I would be in the ice tub probably 24 hours,’’ Bickell said, per the Sun-Times. ‘‘It’s tough hockey, and I want to play it most of the time in the regular season, but it’s hard. But playoffs is playoffs, and you do whatever it takes.’’

With 15 goals in his last 34 playoff games, it’s hard to argue with the approach.

  1. hockeyornothing - May 12, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    Keep it going Bicks!
    We will figure out how to keep you going in the Fall after the Parade.

  2. parasolmonster - May 12, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    “But playoffs is playoffs, and you do whatever it takes.’’

    I understand that, Bicks – but some extra dates with the ice tub during the regular season could have led to a better overall seed and more home-ice opportunities. Keep that in mind next season!

  3. zraskovich - May 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    His net front presence last night, and how effective he is, can be attributed to Nate Prosser. His return last night gave Bix a free reign at the front of the net. That’s not a good strategy. Here’s to hoping Yeo smacks sense into that guy quick.

  4. prd797 - May 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Meh, with all of the injuries Bickell has had, it took him a while to get back to being healthy, And after all, this IS what they paid him for…

    And besides, 4 million for 6 playoff goals seems like a pretty good price to me. Better going rate than how much teams have paid for other stars’ playoff goal production. Cost per goal is a lot higher for guys like Crosby, Mike Richards, Rick Nash, Marty St Louis, Mikko Koivu, etc.

    Not comparing Bickell in terms of star-power, per se, but he sure does show up when the playoffs roll around.

  5. wjarvis - May 12, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Goal 1 – Tip in off Rosival shot from the point
    Goal 2 – Tip in off Seabrook shot from point
    Goal 3 – Tip in off Seabrook shot from point
    Goal 4 – Empty Net
    Goal 5 – Nice wrist shot from the slot on 2 on 1 with Hossa
    Goal 6 – Tip in off Kane shot

    4 of his 6 goals have just been him standing in front of the net with his stick on the ice. He’s made a few excellent passes and hit some posts as well, but really his production has mostly been improved positioning, and the Hawks actually shooting the puck. The major difference in his game between the playoffs and regular season has been his hitting (especially against the Blues) which I’m not sure is sustainable throughout the regular season without missing time to injuries. Yes he’s leading the NHL in playoff goals, but anyone who’s watched the Hawks play probably would agree that he hasn’t been one of the Hawks top 5 most valuable players this post season. Then again without contributions like Bickell’s, the Hawks wouldn’t be cup contenders again.

    • comeonnowguys - May 12, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      I’d disagree. It’s not just random deflections, it’s his netfront presence. Raising a skate so Hossa trailing behind him can score.

      He’s had another strong overall playoff performance this year. That’s why I wasn’t panicing over this regular season production–he’s built for series play.

    • wjarvis - May 12, 2014 at 3:34 PM

      You say net front presence, I say improved positioning with his linemates maintaining possession and shooting. It’s really the same thing. Net front presence is just being in the right place when a shot is taken to screen the goalie and potentially get a stick on the shot. Obviously his size and strength allows him to stay in the right place for longer, but Shaw who has neither Bickell’s size or strength also has good net front presence.

      I’m not trying to say that Bickell isn’t playing an important role for the Hawks, or that he’s not excelling in his role right now. I’m just saying that Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford have been more important than Bickell, and you could probably argue about where his contribution fits between Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Hossa, Kruger and Zus. Kruger and Zus have specialized contributions on PK, not unlike Bickell’s hits and work in front of the net.

      I’d agree with you that he’s built for the playoffs, and I don’t think the Hawks have had any buyers remorse about his contract yet.

  6. purpleguy - May 12, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    This Wild fan has to admit he has been very effective, not to mention irritating as hell. . . . . .

  7. wildfan247 - May 12, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    Son of a Bickell…. He’s pretty solid, I’d have’m on my team.

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