Bickell in right spot at right time

By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 5/12/2014 12:29 AM

It's the spot where Andrew Shaw might be missed the most, because it's the spot where a lot of goals are scored in the playoffs.

The front of the net is the hardest of those "hard areas" that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville often talks about -- and it's where Shaw earns his keep despite his diminutive 5-foot-10, 180-pound body.


Without Shaw for a fourth straight game Sunday because of a lower-body injury, somebody else had to fill the void for the Hawks in Game 5 of a second-round series against the Minnesota Wild.

Bryan Bickell was one of those willing to take the punishment that comes along with that Sunday night. His goal midway through the second period of the Hawks' 2-1 victory over Minnesota at the United Center was a big one and it came from the area Shaw usually roams.

"He's proving it game by game," Marian Hossa said after Bickell's 15th playoff goal in the past two years. "He deserves being on the power play without [Shaw] not being on the first PP in front of the net, and even on the second power play, he's done a great job.

"He's got a couple tip-ins and tonight a big goal by him, so if you put him in front of the net good things happen."

It tied the game 1-1 off a power play, but also brought new life into the building and the Hawks. Where he scored it from was just as important.

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Bickell was parked in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on the top power-play unit, Shaw's spot, when he tipped a shot by Patrick Kane with the shaft of his stick. The puck bounced off the ice between his legs and skipped into the net over Bryzgalov's pad.

It wasn't pretty, but it was exactly how the Wild forces teams to attack its defensive scheme. Minnesota fills the middle of the ice in all zones with players and surrounds Bryzgalov with four or five skaters in the defensive zone, guarding against second and third scoring chances.

"They're just one of those teams that keeps everything outside," Bickell said. "They don't get many opportunities. They protect the net really well. For us, we need to get the puck to the net and get our second opportunities."

Easier said than done however. Without Shaw, that's one less guy who lives for that kind of work, which makes the 6-4, 233-pound Bickell even more important. The Hawks have talked about hounding the Wild net in search of rebounds and screening Bryzgalov, but they haven't been all that successful.

"We could be scoring more by doing that," Bickell said earlier in the series. "If we get to the net, hopefully we can get second opportunities. It seems like pucks have been laying there for us and we couldn't get there."

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