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updated: 5/12/2014 12:11 AM

Blackhawks' Bickell again provides that extra gear

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  • Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell celebrates after scoring his second-period goal as the Minnesota Wild's Nate Prosser reacts Sunday at United Center.

      Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell celebrates after scoring his second-period goal as the Minnesota Wild's Nate Prosser reacts Sunday at United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

Everyone has to stop wondering why Bryan Bickell can't be better during the regular season.

Instead be content that the Blackhawks' winger is so good during the postseason.

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Bickell is what he is, and everybody who cares about the Hawks should be all right with that.

In the second period Sunday night, Bickell helped shake the Hawks out of another sleepwalk and ignited a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Yes, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews did provide the game-winner early in the third period, but Bickell's power play goal was the spark.

Now the Hawks are ahead 3-2 in games as the best-of-seven series returns to Minnesota for Game 6.

All 3 Hawks victories have come in the United Center, and both Wild victories have come in St. Paul.

For too much of Game 5 it looked like that pattern would end. The Wild went ahead 16:23 into the game and the Hawks wrapped up the first period with only 6 shots on goal, about the same pathetic pace they set while losing twice in Minnesota last week.

The Hawks were playing tired. They might not have been tired, but they were playing tired.

That's a convenient excuse the Hawks surely could use. After all, they did play deep into June while winning the Stanley Cup last year and then sent 10 players to the Olympics this year.

So let's say the Hawks were among the walking weary … until along came Bickell.

"You're not going to score pretty goals (in this series)," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville noted.

Pretty goals aren't Bickell's customary style. He has skill but is known more for a physical presence, like on the tying goal in the second period.

Bickell deflected Patrick Kane's shot into the Wild net, and the Hawks came alive.

Bryan Bickell did what he does best in the playoffs. He does it routinely. He does it consistently.

Bickell plants his 6-foot-4, 235-pound body in front of opposing goaltenders and serves as an eclipse of the puck.

"When he plays a physical game and goes to the net, he is rewarded," Hawks winger Marian Hossa said. "Put him in front of the net and good things happen."

Some are bothered that Bickell has been so much more successful at doing this during the postseason than during the regular season.

But would you want it the other way around? Would you want Bickell to excel during the regular season and disappear at playoff time?

Many players in many sports make their living that way and finish their careers without any championships.

The really valuable guys are the ones who do it the way Bickell is doing it.

The scenario fits perfectly for the Hawks because they have enough outstanding players to carry them throughout the regular season.

We're talking Toews, Kane, Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the list goes on.

But those all-star types can wear down during an 82-game season, and that's where help from Bickell pays off.

Think back to last month when the Bulls -- after fighting through adversity all season -- couldn't reach back for an extra gear during the postseason.

Bryan Bickell is the Blackhawks' extra gear.

When space is tighter and hitting is harder and intensity is more intense … well, that's when Bickell is at his best, and why would anyone want it any other way?

Bickell is a complementary player who complements his star teammates at the most important time of the year.

Hawks management knows that and rewarded Bickell with a big contract.

Now it's time for everyone else to be similarly happy with Bryan Bickell just the way he is.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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