For Blackhawks, it's time to reshuffle the deck
It's time for Bryan Bickell to have a seat. Kimmo Timonen, too.
There's just too much at stake to leave these two on the ice as the Blackhawks get set for a do-or-die Game 6 against Anaheim in the Western Conference finals at the United Center on Wednesday.
I almost tweeted a missing person's report on Bickell during the Hawks' Game 5 loss Monday since he hasn't had a goal in the postseason and has done little to be noticed. But I'm glad I resisted that urge, because Bickell actually showed up.
Just not in the way Hawks fans were hoping.
Instead of being an in-front-of-the-net difference-maker, Bickell made all the difference with an unforgivable gaffe just moments into overtime. Instead of getting the puck in deep as the Hawks were switching lines, Bickell tried to blast a shot to the net that failed to get past Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg, who had a "look what I found moment." He passed to Ryan Kesler and Corey Crawford watched in horror as the Hawks' nemesis barreled in on him with no help in sight.
Shot. Rebound. Beleskey.
Bench Bickell. Please. Give Kris Versteeg another chance. Some may say that it's lunacy to take out the only player who can dish out hits the way the Ducks have in this series. But few of Bickell's hits have been memorable and Versteeg can bring speed and elusiveness that might just give the dead-legged Hawks some life.
As for Timonen, he looks every bit of 40 years old -- if not more like 45, 50 or even 60. Really, it's difficult to blame him as he was able to play only the last quarter of the season after sitting out with blood clots in his lower legs and lungs.
Against an average, run-of-the mill team, Timonen would be OK. But against the Ducks?
He looks like those kids in the Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes karate lessons. That makes for good comedy, but watching Timonen vs. Anaheim is only fun for the Ducks and their fans.
Granted, David Rundblad was awful in Game 1, but it's time to give him another chance. Play him 7-8 minutes vs. the right lines and he'll be fine.
Let's not put all the blame on the players for the Hawks falling into a 3-2 hole in this series vs. Anaheim. While it's true that coach Joel Quenneville has made some great decisions in the postseason, he's also made some dreadful ones.
Plenty of fans are still grumbling about Q's decision to sit Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen in Game 3, a 2-1 loss in which the Hawks were completely out of sorts.
All Vermette and Teravainen have done since is combine with Patrick Sharp to be the Hawks' most dangerous line by far. Those three were everywhere Monday, and the only reason the game was even 3-2 after two periods came courtesy of a Teravainen goal and a Seabrook tally, set up by this line.
Quenneville's other bad call Monday came when he sent Patrick Kane, Brad Richards and Bickell out to start the overtime in Game 5. Shouldn't Jonathan Toews' line be out there first, especially considering the captain scored twice in 82 seconds to get the game to OT?
So with Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad all affixed to the bench, Bickell commits a bad turnover, the Ducks pounce and the Hawks are 1 loss from watching the Stanley Cup Final on TV.
So say it with me: Sit Bickell and Timonen. And come out Wednesday like there's no tomorrow.
And if the Hawks do that, there will be.
• Follow John's Hawks reports on Twitter @johndietzdh.