All Jonathan Toews had to hear was the name Bryan Bickell and the Blackhawks captain couldn't help but break into a big grin.
"He's back," Toews said after yet another huge performance by Bickell, who had a goal and 2 sweet assists Sunday afternoon to lead the Hawks to a 4-1 victory over the Wild.
Thanks to Bickell's heroics and a pair of goals from Brandon Saad, the Hawks now lead the second round series 2-0 with Game 3 set for Tuesday night in Minnesota.
When you stop and think about it, it's almost unfair what big ol' No. 29 brings to the table when the postseason rolls around.
"He's got that physical presence about him -- not many guys have that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "That skill set, as well as the ability to be physically imposing ... when you have that combination, it's tough to play against."
Not only is Bickell's scoring (8 points) ahead of pace from his breakout playoff performance of a year ago, he's also among the league leaders in hits.
As if that weren't enough, now it appears he's added some amazing passing to his repertoire -- like the outlet he sent to Marian Hossa that resulted in a Toews goal to open the scoring.
"That first assist was a special play Not many guys have that play recognition," Quenneville said.
"He's known for shooting the puck hard and scoring goals, but that was a great pass and good vision there on Johnny's goal," said Saad, who was also on the receiving end of a sweet feed from Bickell. "He brings something new to the table every day."
And to think, his 3-point night could've been a 4-point night if not for an unlucky bounce, that's because a few minutes before his wrister beat Ilya Bryzgalov in the third period, Bickell dinged one off the post that both he and the SRO crowd at the United Center thought for sure went in.
"I did," Bickell said. "I raised my hand and the referee said no. But I saw the replay and it didn't go in."
"Stick with it and good things happen."
That's been Bickell's mantra all year, especially after getting off to an extremely slow start in the regular season.
"I didn't really have much confidence in my game," he admitted. "But at the end of the regular season, it was starting to go the right way. It felt like every game was a playoff atmosphere."
And as we all know now, that's when he shifts into another gear, a gear that has to give opponents nightmares.
"He's got that physical presence about him -- not many guys have that," Duncan Keith said. "That skill-set as well as the ability to be physically imposing. When you have that combination it's tough to play against."
The Wild is learning that first-hand. And it's not only Bickell or Toews or Saad that are proving a tough combination to play against, but throw in goalie Corey Crawford, who stopped 18 shots to pick up his sixth straight win, and Minnesota has to be wondering what it's going to take to get back in this series.
"I think we have to put that in our heads that we can still come back, we've done it before, and that's it," center Charlie Coyle said. "We've got to put these games behind us. "It's not going to do any good to worry about them now. So just think ahead and we've got to win that next one."