Bryan Bickell first full season was a successful start scoring 17 goals 20 assists but the real reason his season was a good start was the hits he provided. He had 178 hits in 82 games for a average of over 2 per game. Last season Bickell played liked he was skating for Disney On Ice waltzing around like he was at the local open skate. Bickell found himself watching games as a healthy scratch due to his lackluster play. Bickell stats regressed to 7 goals 15 assists and only 128 hits. Bickell like Michael Frolik woke up during the Phoenix Coyote series and played like the 2010-2011 version when he collected 32 hits and a Game 2 OT winner in the 6 game series. The question entering this season was which Bickell would show up for the shortened season.
The guy providing the hits has shown up for the 48 game sprint. He is tied for 45th in the league with 29 hits in 13 games. He has 2 goals and 5 assists and a +3 rating. He has played strong all season and was the reason the momentum took a total turn in the Ducks game Tuesday night. Bickell’s clean created an instigator penalty which Nick Leddy took advantage of with a power play goal. Bickell’s line is what you want from the bottom lines which is energy that creates chances and has a plus rating.
The stars create most of the goals and the headlines, but it’s the play of the worker bees that help turn tides and push teams from average to good and good to great. Bickell’s playing at this level is what the Hawks were expecting and makes him one of the best bargains in the NHL. Bickell is in the last year of his contract so there is no greater motivator in professional sports than a player playing for their next contract and the Hawks in the shortened season of 2013 are the benefactors.
The one area were the Hawks could use Bickell to grow as a hockey player would be to turn into the big body in front of the net that the Hawks have been missing on the power play since Dustin Byfuglien was traded away after the Stanley Cup Championship. The power play has been a major disappointment with all the offensive talent on the roster, but the real reason it struggles is that missing piece has never stood up in front of the net, and it’s a shame that Bickell cannot become that piece.
The 2013 season is off to a tremendous start and to keep up that momentum Bickell needs to keep delivering the hits on a nightly basis!
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