After becoming the breakout star of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bryan Bickell openly wondered what it would be like if he got a full season as a top-line left wing, skating alongside all-world players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Well, he’s going to get a chance to find out.
As Blackhawks training camp opened on Thursday, the line that reinvigorated the Hawks’ slumping offense in the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles, then again in the Final against Boston, was back together. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll “probably” start the season with that combination.
“You know Q, sometimes he changes it back and forth,” Bickell said. “But hopefully it starts out that way.”
While Bickell got a four-year, $16-million contract out of his nine-goal playoff performance, Patrick Kane reaped much of the rewards on the ice, breaking out of his slump in style with a hat trick in the decisive Game 5 against the Kings, and three more in Games 4 and 5 against Boston. Kane — who spent most of last season with Patrick Sharp and a rotating cast of characters at center — was happy to see the line kept together.
“It’s easy to play with them because they create so much space for you and get pucks back,” Kane said. “We were calling me the ‘benefish’ — the beneficiary of all their hard work, because I would end up scoring the goals. Bicks played great in the playoffs. He’s one of the key parts of our lineup now, and I think he’s got to know that going into this season, and know that he’s not counted on to be a third-line player or a checking-line guy — he’s got to do what he did in the playoffs. That’s what’s expected of him now.”
Bickell’s fine with the added pressure created by both his expanded role and expanded bankroll.
“I think my game’s getting better every year,” he said. “My consistency level has been there, my mind’s been where it’s needed to be. If I keep doing what I did last year and through the playoffs, I shouldn’t have a problem.”