BOSTON – If losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final was a nightmare for the Los Angeles Kings, then Bryan Bickell was the creepy clown that lives under their bed: Seven points in five games, including three straight goals in Games 3-through-5.
He scored. He hit. He was a revelation, increasing his overall output in the Final to 13 points in 17 games. Suddenly his name was being mentioned with Ryane Clowe and David Clarkson as free-agent power forwards ready to break the bank.
Then the Boston Bruins arrived in the Stanley Cup Final, and Bickell’s gone silent: Zero points, a demotion from the top line and a performance in Game 2 that saw him with just two shot attempts in 19:14.
Bickell was on track to be a playoff hero if the Blackhawks win the Cup, and reap the benefits. Did that added pressure weigh on him?
“No,” he said, hours before Game 3 in Boston on Monday. "I just play it game by game here. We’re going to figure out the situation at the end of the season. I’m playing on the team, playing to win.”
Playing, but pressing.
Bickell said the last round was an unbelievable run for him. “Everything I touched was hitting the back of the net,” he said.
But the Bruins are a different defensive animal, especially in their physicality, and Bickell’s still trying to find a way to adjust after being bumped from Jonathan Toews’ wing down to a line with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw, with whom Bickell played plenty during the season.
“I still think he has to simplify it,” said Coach Joel Quenneville. “Keep the puck going forward, put it at the net, don't have to try to make plays. When you try to make plays, the other team takes advantage of it. I think simplifying it will be more effective and efficient.”
That message was parroted by Bickell: “I need to get back to being more simple. There are times when I’m being too cute.”
There shouldn’t be anything cute about Bickell’s game. It should be the kind of raw power the Blackhawks saw in Round 3, the kind of defense-disrupting play that made life hell for the Kings.
Bickell recognizes this.
“I need to be more physical. Be harder on their D. Make them turn,” he said. “I need to bring it tonight.”