suntimes
COMFY 
Weather Updates

Bryan Bickell comes alive for playoffs

Updated: April 29, 2014 12:21AM



Against the big, bad Blues, no Blackhawks player was bigger or badder than winger Bryan Bickell.

Bickell delivered a league-leading 35 hits in the Hawks’ six-game victory against the Blues, an average of nearly six a game — triple the rate at which he doled out hits during the regular season.

‘‘If I played like this all through the regular season, I would be in the ice tub probably 24 hours,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘It’s tough hockey, and I want to play it most of the time in the regular season, but it’s hard. But playoffs is playoffs, and you do whatever it takes.’’

Bickell earned a four-year,
$16 million contract with his breakout playoff performance last spring, in which he had nine goals and eight assists and delivered
85 hits in 23 games. His 2013-14
regular season was a major disappointment, with only 11 goals and four assists in 59 games. But with two goals and an assist in the series against the Blues, as well as all those bone-crushing hits, Bickell is re-establishing himself as a big-time playoff performer.

‘‘It’s the playoffs,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘Everybody starts at zero; anything can happen. If you have a good playoffs, you can wash away the regular season.’’

Coach Joel Quenneville
would like to see this version of Bickell year-round, but better late than never.

‘‘I think every team in the league would love to have that power forward that brings that element to their game,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Those players are hard to find. So we’re happy to have him now, but certainly we’d love that consistency. And I think that’s where we’re working to get as we go along.’’

Trophy talk

As expected, Duncan Keith was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman. Keith, the 2010 winner, is up against the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara and the Predators’ Shea Weber.

Keith had six goals and 55 assists (tops among NHL defensemen) in 79 games this season. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards Show on June 24 in Las Vegas.

‘‘I wouldn’t be nominated without having great teammates and a great defense partner in Brent Seabrook,’’ Keith said in a statement. ‘‘It’s a special feeling to be up for this award.’’

Voting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association was conducted at the end of the regular season, but Keith is coming off what Quenneville called perhaps his best game Sunday in Game 6 against the Blues. Keith had a goal and three assists and twice made difficult saves at the point that led directly to goals.

Net gains

Corey Crawford was hard on himself — as was Quenneville — after he gave up two late goals in losses in Games 1 and 2 against the Blues. He responded with a shutout in Game 3 and was outstanding in Game 6, making
35 saves, including 17 in the second period.

‘‘That’s what a leader does,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘He’s not afraid to take the blame and take the criticism and the negative attention, and he pulls through. Your teammates respond to play and behavior like that. Pretty amazing job by him.’’

Waking up

The Hawks clearly were fighting mental and physical fatigue during the second half of the season, coming off a short offseason and the Winter Olympics. It doesn’t appear to be an issue anymore.

‘‘I think everybody is engaged,’’ winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘Everybody is excited. You saw the building out there [Sunday]. It was pretty loud. It’s easy to play hockey and get up for games when you have a situation like that.’’

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.