Bryan Bickell’s reaction to the playoffs is much like Bruce Banner’s when he became angry: the superhuman in him seems to emerge.
No, Bickell’s postseason transformation isn’t truly Hulk-like, but you get the point: his average regular seasons transform into monster postseasons, much to the Chicago Blackhawks’ happiness. And on Sunday, he was adding another great playoff outing to the repertoire.
Bickell had a career-best, three-point night, tallying a goal and two assists in the Blackhawks 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon. Bickell, who was also a plus-3, now has five goals and three assists in eight playoff games.
So does Bickell just get a glint in his eye come April, May and beyond?
“Yeah, it seems like it,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “He’s been good for us so far, playing the body and creating space for us. His (wrist) shot is really hard to stop at practice. It’s hard to read and react to because it’s so hard and quick. He’s been playing well for us and stepped up the last bunch.”
That tricky wrist shot was in play on Sunday, when Bickell scored on a 2-on-1 with Marian Hossa. It’s a shot Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville would like him to take more, but he’s also happy with Bickell’s complete game right now.
“His play all year long was ordinary until the end of the year when he was trending, looking like he was going to play in the playoffs,” he said. “In the playoffs (last year) we gave him a lot more responsibility and he just seemed to grab it; he got more and more quality and quantity of ice time in big games. He earned it, deserved it, got rewarded I the summer and now he’s playing exactly the same way. We’re happy with the contribution we’re getting from him but I thought he and that line had a special game today.”
Quenneville scratched Bickell a few times this season when the left wing wasn’t playing well. But Bickell never took it personally, and appreciates his coach having faith in him to rebound.
“For a stretch of the season there wasn’t much confidence and I didn’t have much confidence,” Bickell said. “There were times I wasn’t playing but I’ve found what I was. It’s nice to have certain shifts, offensively or defensively, that he puts me out there. To have the confidence back feels good.”
[XFINITY HIGH FLYING HAWK -- Bryan Bickell, Game 2 vs. Wild]
Jonathan Toews, who was on an earlier 2-on-1 with Bickell (he hit the crossbar on that one), said Bickell’s doing all the little things right.
“He’s getting pucks out, he’s playing well along the wall in our zone and there’s a lot of communication with defensemen, myself and him as far as where the pressure’s coming from,” Toews said. “In the offensive zone guys are aware of where he is because he’s such a physical presence, so it opens up space and makes those defensemen think of getting rid of the puck quicker than they normally would. So whether he’s scoring or not, he’s doing a lot of great things out there and that’s adding up to his success right now.”
Bickell is back to his powerhouse postseason ways. He went through a rough regular season again but, whatever the issues are there, they seem to disappear come April, May and beyond.
There’s just something about this time of year.
“Yeah, the grass is getting greener… it’s a crucial time of year and I just enjoy it,” Bickell said. “I just have to stick with it.”