Blackhawks more than surviving Bryan Bickell’s scoring drought
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter December 22, 2013 9:42PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators
Bryan Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract, but his 2013-14 salary is still only 10th-highest on the team:
Marian Hossa $7.9M
Duncan Keith $7.65M
Patrick Kane $6.5M
Jonathan Toews $6.5M
Patrick Sharp $6.5M
Brent Seabrook $5M
Kris Versteeg $4.6M*
Niklas Hjalmarsson $3.5M
Johnny Oduya $3.3M
Bryan Bickell $3M
Notes: List is salary, not cap hit.
*—split with Panthers
Updated: January 24, 2014 6:28AM
On another team, in another situation, the pressure on Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell right now would be immense. Coming off a breakthrough postseason and a summer in which he signed a four-year, $16 million contract, Bickell stumbled out of the gate, then missed a month with a knee injury just as he started to get comfortable.
With one game left before the NHL goes on its three-day Christmas break, Bickell has a mere five goals — just one since Oct. 28, a span of 13 games — and one assist.
Does Bickell want to score? Of course. But does he need to score? Not really. Not on this team, which has more weapons than it knows what to do with.
The Hawks are by far the highest-scoring team in the league with 140 goals through 38 games. They have six players with at least 10 goals: Patrick Kane (21), Patrick Sharp (16), Marian Hossa (14), Jonathan Toews (13), Brandon Saad (12) and Andrew Shaw (10). Only the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs have five such players, and four teams — the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and New York Rangers — don’t have any. Most teams have two or three.
‘‘We have a lot of scorers in the locker room,’’ said Bickell, who has played in two games since returning from his knee injury. ‘‘I feel you can’t go wrong. It’ll be nice to score. Everybody wants to score. But to do the little things and to help this team win is the ultimate goal.’’
And so Bickell will continue to throw his weight around (he had five hits in Friday’s shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks) and try to create some offense for linemates Shaw and Saad until he regains his timing and touch. And Toews won’t sweat the fact that he has just one goal in his last 13 games, deferring to his sharpshooting wingers Sharp and Hossa and focusing on his defense and playmaking instead.
Scoring droughts happen. On a team with three bona fide scoring lines, those droughts are far less noticeable. It’s a luxury few teams have.
‘‘Everybody has times where everything’s going in for them, and sometimes guys around them dry up,’’ Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Jonny’s a scorer at a pretty consistent rate, and he’s gone through stretches where it’s not going in for him. But he’s still effective in other ways. The production in all our lines right now has been consistent. I don’t really care who’s doing the scoring. I just want to score.”
As for Bickell, he said Sunday he’s in ‘‘great shape” and that his new knee braces aren’t affecting his play. He only has played about 10 minutes in each of his two games since returning, but much of that has to do with both games being penalty-fests and Bickell not playing on special teams.
Shaw said his familiar left winger hasn’t missed a beat.
‘‘He always finishes checks. He’s always going hard,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘He’s got that heavy shot, and if he doesn’t score, he’s obviously creating opportunities offensively for me and Saad. We’re playing strong defensively, too. I think he’s been great here.’’
Bickell figures the offense will come. And with all the help he has around him, he doesn’t have to press and stress to make it happen.
‘‘It was a slow start, but the team is doing well, and that’s what the main goal is,’’ he said. ‘‘If I score 10 goals or two goals and we’re still winning, I’ll help out the team in any way. Hopefully I can score more goals in the next half, but whatever helps makes this team win.’’
NOTES: Antti Raanta will make his seventh straight start in goal Monday against the New Jersey Devils.
◆ Corey Crawford skated on his own for the fourth straight day Sunday. Quenneville expects him to rejoin team practices by next week.