Four years and $16 million are familiar numbers to Chicago Blackhawks fans. That is the hometown discount the Blackhawks got for winger Bryan Bickell this offseason, after a breakout playoffs only added more fuel to the fire about Bickell’s potential with teams across the NHL, very similar to Dustin Byfulgien’s postseason in 2010.
Bickell began the season on the top line but was quickly out of place and dispatched by Brandon Saad. Among the issues that coach Joel Quenneville saw was that Bickell had forgotten who he was and attempted to morph his style into that of a Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, who were filling up the stat sheets while Bickell filled it with zeroes.
Since the move to the third line, however, Bickell has looked more like his old self, tallying two goals and moving back into a traditional net-front presence. Since he is now dropped from the top six, Bickell will certainly have to grind more than he had to at the beginning of the season. Yesterday, while placed on a line with Bickell, Andrew Shaw registered an impressive five hits, demonstrating just how physical both wingers can be.
The beauty is in Bickell’s style down the ice, a mix of size and shot that is perfect for a third line, although not necessarily a top one yet. For now, he needs to continue to be a catalyst, especially as the Blackhawks struggle towards the ends of games, a trend which Bickell can hopefully help turn around.
The Blackhawks will face the Tampa Bay Lightning next — a team that upset the defending Champs in their first meeting this year, despite being outplayed thoroughly for two periods while Bickell was on the top line. While the statistical production is nice, we will all get the chance to see how much the change in lines has really affected Bryan Bickell’s game going forward this season.
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