ST. PAUL, Minn. – Being a healthy scratch: it’s not the easiest news to hear for an NHL player, especially one who’s a regular in the lineup.
Several Chicago Blackhawks have felt the frustration that comes with that lately, from Nick Leddy to Brandon Bollig to Kris Versteeg. It’s tough, it’s disappointing and it’s frustrating. But players say they have to take the right attitude about it: it has to be motivating, not demoralizing.
“You definitely don’t want to let it get into your head,” said Bollig, who was scratched earlier this series before returning in Game 3. “It’s tough to deal with mentally but you have to deal with it and not let it affect your game, at least in a negative aspect.”
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Coach Joel Quenneville talked of how difficult the process can be. Is a guy struggling? Should you sit one player because another deserves a chance to show what he can do? Does a matchup favor one over another? No matter the reason, the choice is not meant to be an attack on the scratched player. To quote the Godfather, it’s not personal; it’s strictly business.
“We’re looking for more: that’s kind of it,” Quenneville said of the scratch rationale. “Sometimes it gets their attention. It’s never personal. It’s, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ We’re trying to find ways to get the most of each and every individual. That’s kind of where we’re at in that situation.”
Bryan Bickell went through some healthy scratches this past regular season. It wasn’t new to him; two seasons ago, Bickell was scratched for five consecutive regular-season games as he struggled to find consistency and confidence. Once the playoffs hit, however, Bickell has been tremendous. That’s true again this postseason; in nine playoff games, Bickell has five goals and three assists, as well as 40 hits.
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Bickell said it’s important not to take a scratch personally.
“It kind of lights that fire beneath you to be better,” Bickell said. ““I’ve been on that side a couple of times, but you take it as a learning experience to look back on what you were doing, what you need to do and why they take you out. Hopefully, for whoever it happens to, (he takes) it the right way. Some players, they don’t (take it well); but hopefully it can, for whoever, light a fire. It’s a crucial time. We need to play our best hockey.”
Getting scratched isn’t easy. All of these guys are competitors and all of them want to be in the lineup. Quenneville doesn’t do it to humiliate; he does it to motivate.
“Obviously, you want to use it as motivation and create that mindset that you want to stay back in the lineup once you get in,” Bollig said. “So it’s definitely something you need to use as motivation and not a hindrance.”