VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Though the injury looked gruesome when it occurred, the announcement that Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell underwent wrist surgery on Monday and would miss 6-8 weeks still came as quite a surprise.
Bickell cut his hand in Game 2 but played through the injury the past three games.
He was part of the Hawks turnaround in the series, skating on a dynamic checking line with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik. Bickell missed Game 3 but played in Blackhawks wins in Games 4-6. He showed no signs the injury was hampering him, even scoring the Hawks’ first goal in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win in Game 6.
His chemistry with Frolik and Bolland will be missed. So who do the Hawks turn to for that crucial role?
The most likely candidate is Troy Brouwer, who has been skating on the fourth line. Brouwer is a near carbon copy of Bickell in many ways, though Bickell has shown a little better touch around the net and weighs about 10 more pounds. Both players have similar defensive games, which is an all-important aspect when facing down Vancouver’s Sedin twins.
If Brouwer isn’t the answer, other candidates for that role include Marian Hossa and possibly Ryan Johnson. The addition of Johnson to that line would add a faceoff specialist against Henrik Sedin. That’s not considered Dave Bolland’s strength. But Brouwer remains the favorite to play wing next to Bolland and Frolik.
It opens a spot on the fourth line for either Marcus Kruger or Fernando Pisani. Jake Dowell could also return but he’s behind the other two players on the depth chart. There could be two openings on the fourth line next to Johnson if Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville elects not to dress John Scott. Scott played only 59 seconds in Game 6.
Luongo starts: Unless he changes his mind again, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault announced Roberto Luongo as his Game 7 starter. That’s the right call. He’s the guy that got the Canucks here and he’s the guy that deserves a chance to get them out of the mess they’re in. In the end, Vigneault played it right. If he wanted to go with a gut call then Game 6 was the time to do it. It didn’t work, so it’s back to Luongo.
Gillis angry: Canucks general manager Mike Gillis had a calculated rant about officiating on Monday. He even called the league ahead of time to warn them.
“I felt that if it would have been a level playing field, we would have won the game,” Gillis said in regards to Game 6.
The Hawks had 6:17 of power-play time in Game 6, including 1:43 with a two-man advantage. The Canucks had 4:00 of power play time. For the series, the Hawks have 27 power plays to Vancouver’s 16.
One play the Canucks wanted a penalty called on was a hit Bickell put on Kevin Bieksa behind the Canucks net. It was nearly exactly the same hit Raffi Torres delivered on Brent Seabrook in Game 3. Bieksa had the puck, with his head down, and got hit high by Bickell. The league has deemed those hits legal so Vancouver has no leg to stand on, especially considering how they defended Torres.
Torres was called for interference but that was it. According to the rules, Bickell did nothing wrong. If the league doesn’t change that rule, additional major head hits will occur behind the net.