Maybe it’s a seasonal thing.
For the second straight spring, Chicago forward Bryan Bickell has emerged as a playoff sniper — in Sunday’s Game 5 win over Minnesota, he scored his NHL-leading sixth goal of the postseason — but this time, the heroics come after a poor regular season in which he scored just 15 points, missed 20 games to injury (plus some as a healthy scratch) and generally disappointed in the first of a four-year, $16 million extension.
To hear Bickell explain it, though, he hasn’t changed anything from the regular season to playoffs.
“I don’t alter my game based on who we are playing,” Bickell said, per the NHLPA website. “I think for any player it’s about being consistent in every area of your game, working with your linemates to be effective every shift.”
Working with linemates has been key for Bickell, especially lately as he’s replaced the injured Andrew Shaw on Chicago’s top power play unit. He has two goals on the man advantage against the Wild and, as Marian Hossa pointed out, Bickell’s 6-foot-4, 233-pound frame will often yield positive results when put in front of the goal.
“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,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Daily Herald. “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.”
All of this springtime success will lead to the inevitable question: Why can’t Bickell do this all the time? ‘Hawks fans will no doubt be front-and-center with those queries, as Bickell’s lackadaisical regular-season play can be a lightning rod for criticism, especially in light of his $4 million annual cap hit — which, to be fair, he earned on the strength of last year’s nine-goal, 17-point effort en route to Chicago’s second Stanley Cup in four years.
In fact, it almost sounds like Bickell consciously saves himself for the playoffs.
‘‘If I played like this all through the regular season, I would be in the ice tub probably 24 hours,’’ Bickell said, per the Sun-Times. ‘‘It’s tough hockey, and I want to play it most of the time in the regular season, but it’s hard. But playoffs is playoffs, and you do whatever it takes.’’
With 15 goals in his last 34 playoff games, it’s hard to argue with the approach.