EDMONTON, Alberta — Right after Bryan Bickell’s one-timer from the top of the left circle found the back of the net on the far side Thursday night in Minnesota, the Blackhawks winger picked up his right foot and unleashed a windmill fist-pump as he glided toward the end boards.
Then he fell down.
“I think I got a little carried away with the celebration,” a sheepish Bickell said afterward. “Usually, I’m in front of the net, standing still when I’m scoring.”
After going eight games without a point, and after scoring just four goals in his first 36 games, Bickell will take them anywhere he can get them. And he’s suddenly getting them in bunches, with four goals in his last five games entering Friday night’s game at Edmonton. His minutes are up, his production is up, and his spot in the lineup is up — making a bid to stay on the second line alongside Brad Richards and Patrick Kane while Kris Versteeg recovers from a hand injury.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell will remain there for the time being.
“It’s nice to get some confidence, and for him to believe [in me], and know that I can be on the ice in crucial opportunities,” Bickell said. “Just happy. I needed to stick with it, and I know goals come in bunches. So I just need to keep my nose down and dirty, and just keep grinding.”
That’s how Bickell made his name, scoring the greasy goals from the goalmouth during the last two postseason runs. But his first goal Thursday night — the filthy one-timer of a drop-pass from Kane — was a reminder that he has one of the best and heaviest shots on the team, too. With playmakers to his right, he might be able to use that shot a little more often.
“He’s got a great shot,” Kane said. “Not many players can score from that part of the ice on that angle with no screen in front. He picked the corner perfectly. Great shot, and huge goal at that time of the game.”
But Quenneville doesn’t want Bickell getting away from his bread and butter and trying to become a sniper all of a sudden. He wants Bickell parking his 6-4 frame in the crease and making life miserable for opposing goaltenders.
“You’ve got to be careful,” Quenneville said. “I don’t mind him shooting the puck, but making plays is something that you’ve got to be careful [with]. But he does have a tremendous shot off the rush — take advantage of it, use it.”
Bickell’s size and strength never have been an issue. Neither has his shot. It’s always been a mental game with him, his confidence ebbing and flowing all season long, until is usually hits its high point in the spring. Bickell’s been in the background for the first half of the season, as the Hawks have raced to the upper tier of the league standings. He’s hoping to play a major role in the second half, and, of course, beyond.
“I know it’s been slow for me personally, but it’s been a good ride,” he said. “I think we’re playing good hockey, and that’s the most important thing. If I’m not scoring and we’re getting two points, I’m happy with that. But it’s always nice to see a couple goals, contribute, and help out.”