TAMPA – Bryan Bickell got the rebound from his own shot and, with that patented wrister, flicked one past Tim Thomas for his second goal in as many games. Patrick Kane sees why Bickell’s gotten his scoring touch back.
“I guess he just needed to get rid of me and (Jonathan Toews),” Kane said on Wednesday.
As funny as that sounds, there’s a slight ring of truth to it. No, it’s not about Bickell getting separated from the Blackhawks’ superstars. It’s about him getting back to his element, back to his comfort zone, which seems to be as that third-line guy. And if that’s what it takes for the goals and his all-around game to come back, so be it.
Bickell has scored two goals in as many games and has looked more like himself since coach Joel Quenneville moved him back to his familiar third-line role. He’s hitting, he’s noticeable and, yes, he’s tallying a few points along the way. Bickell, whose game has always risen and fell with his confidence level, likes how his game is returning.
“It’s feeling better,” he said. “The start of the year was frustrating, but you have to stick with it. The chances were there but they weren’t going in. They’ve been going in lately, and I have to carry this through to tomorrow (against the Tampa Bay Lightning).”
Bickell came into this season with a big contract and all the pressure that comes with those bigger numbers. It was evident he was feeling it, too. Thrown onto the top line, where he finished the 2012-13 Stanley Cup run, Bickell just wasn’t looking like himself. He admits that he tried to overdo things and didn’t just play his game.
“I feel the first couple of games I was trying to do too much,” he said. “Those (third-line) guys are similar with how I play. We know where each other is on the ice. I was doing too much the first half-dozen games. I had to get back to simple and get this thing going.”
Kane said Bickell’s current game is reminiscent of Bickell’s postseason.
“He just kind of took off. He’s playing well. And when he is, he has a lot of confidence,” Kane said. “He’s got a good shot. With him, you want him to play physical and with that confidence, and it’s bound to go in for him.”
If Bickell’s more in his element, is finding his scoring touch and feels more comfortable playing on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger, then on the third line he should stay. Coach Joel Quenneville just wants Bickell to be Bickell.
“Be it his production or his game, he brings an element to our team game that we appreciate,” Quenneville said. “He’s physical, he’s unpredictable on the forecheck and at the net he has a presence. He has some nice strengths.”
When a player is put on a line with elite teammates, he usually utters the phrase, “I have to play my game.” It’s true. Bickell, admittedly, wasn’t just playing his game, wasn’t just being himself, when he was with Kane and Toews. He’s in his element on the third line. He’s playing well on the third line. He’s scoring on the third line. If being on the third brings Bickell’s best game forward, so be it.
“My strength is my shot,” he said. “Before (on the top line), I was just trying to get them the puck and just get to the front of the net and not using my strengths. But playing with Shaw and Krugs, they find me and drive the net. All I need to do is get to the net and hopefully get things go.”