CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t pleased with forward Bryan Bickell after a shift during the third period Tuesday, and Bickell heard all about it when he returned to the bench.
Bickell sat there and accepted the criticism. He knew he’d get another chance on the ice and planned to redeem himself.
“I know Q wasn’t happy with me on one shift in the third and gave me a little wrist slap, but he threw me back out there,” Bickell said. “He has confidence in our line and knows what we can do.”
Bickell and the third line rewarded that confidence by putting together the game-winning goal, which was finished by Bickell, to defeat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in overtime in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The play began when defenseman Johnny Oduya lifted the puck from the Blackhawks’ defensive zone and floated it just over the outstretched arm of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who was leaping for the puck. The puck hit the ice, and Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg caught up to it while he passed the blue line on the right side of the rink.
Stalberg controlled the puck, stopped and hit Bickell as he was coming up the left side. Bickell received the pass, took the puck from his forehand to his backhand while he skated toward the net and knocked it past Wild goaltender Josh Harding with a back-handed shot for the game-winner.
“I was kind of, I don’t want to say cheating, I was kind of taking a little bit of a gamble,” Bickell said. “I saw it was a high flip and then it made it over that D-man’s glove and I knew [Stalberg] was going to get it. It was just a read on the ice to jump into the play and get that opportunity.”
Bickell has a certain knack for those playoff opportunities. Tuesday’s goal marked his fifth playoff goal in 14 games in the past three seasons. No other Blackhawks’ player has more than four playoff goals in the past three years.
As Bickell explained, there’s just something about the playoffs and his game that mesh well.
“I think hockey and the playoffs are kind of my style, more grinding, more hitting, more less chances and just playing more defensively,” Bickell said. I don’t know. We had a good feeling. Me and [Stalberg] going in the third. He felt one of us would finish it. We were lucky to get that.”
Quenneville entered the playoffs thinking Bickell could be a game-changer and was glad to see Bickell perform as he did in Game 1.
“I think Bick plays his best when he’s using his speed, on the forecheck and he’s physical,” Quenneville said. “You know he’s got a big shot off the rush. He’s got a little finish with his deke as well. I think Bick is one of those players who can make a difference game-in, game-out with his size and his presence and his quickness. I think he was kind of representative from our whole team tonight.”