While Jonathan Toews has been missing from the lineup, the superstars on the Hawks roster have carried their share of the offensive burden.
But the contributions of the much-maligned Bryan Bickell, who struggled for much of the season’s first half, have been important to the strong play of the Hawks down the stretch.
Bickell was, by most (read: all) accounts an overwhelming disappointment in the season’s first half after having an impressive rookie campaign. Coming off a season in which he scored 17 goals in 78 games, Bickell found himself a healthy scratch in favor other other rookies in the middle of this season. He appeared to be lost from the beginning of November until the end of January.
Before the break, Bickell struggled with only four goals, five assists and a minus-seven in 39 games. He disappeared from the stat sheet, and from the ice; his ice time dropped from over 14 minutes in October to just over eight per game in January, and he contributed only one goal and three assists in 30 games between the end of October and the first of February.
Perhaps the most frustrating stat from Bickell’s season was his apparently apathetic approach to the game in the middle of the year. In 17 games in December and January, Bickell as only credit with eight shots on goal.
But it appears someone handed Bickell some caffeine when February began, and he’s been rolling ever since. Since the All-Star break, Bickell has been playing like the power forward that led the organization to feel more comfortable not bringing Troy Brouwer back.
Coach Joel Quenneville increased Bickell’s time on the ice to over 11 minutes again in February, and he took advantage of the opportunity. Earning even more ice time in March, Bickell continued to show up in the box scores more often.
Since the break, Bickell has been more like the guy we saw last year. He has 15 points (five goals and 10 assists) and is plus-four in 29 games, but more importantly he has been more active with the puck. He accounted for only 40 shots on goal in his first 41 games, but has 43 shots in 29 games since.
Indeed, looking at Chicago’ performance as a team this year, Bickell’s performance is not only a barometer for the team’s success, but an example of the increased role of secondary scoring in the Hawks’ success.
In the 38 wins in which Bickell has played this year, he has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and is plus-11.
In the 32 losses in which Bickell has participated, he has four points (one goal, three assists) and is minus-14.
Bickell remains second on the team with 126 hits in 70 appearances, behind only Brent Seabrook (198). When he’s playing a physical game and attacking the net, Bickell is an asset that has served the Blackhawks well. They’ll need him to be precisely that in the postseason.