Bickell would measure his game by the number of goals and assists he had. He was pleased when he was producing and frustrated when he wasn’t.
Preparing to turn 28 years old on Sunday and having been in the league nearly four full seasons, Bickell has learned to evaluate his game differently. Mainly, he looks at the Blackhawks’ wins and losses.
“Most important thing I think in my stage of my career, I don’t think points are what I need,” Bickell said after practice Saturday. “We need two points as a team. I’m here to help.
“It seems like earlier in my career you want to get points and play your best to be an elite player in this league. I think I’ve established what I’ve done and what I can do. Points are going to come and go. Whether you’re winning is the most important thing.”
Points have been coming Bickell’s way as of late. He’s scored goals in two of the four games since returning from the Olympic break. He knocked in a puck around the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1 and while on the move cleaned up a rebound from a Kris Versteeg shot for a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
Versteeg said Bickell’s goal Thursday was the perfect example of what Bickell could give the Blackhawks.
“It was a great goal by him,” Versteeg said. “He went to the net and the puck landed on his stick and he put it in. He has a great goal-scoring touch for a big guy. He’s a heck of a factor on the ice when he wants to be. Hopefully it’s a positive and we can all keep rolling forward.”
Expectations for Bickell’s scoring numbers were raised this season after he delivered nine goals in 23 playoff games last season. But his regular-season numbers this season are about on par for what he’s done throughout his career. He has 10 goals in 47 games this season. He had nine goals in 48 games last season, nine goals in 71 games in the 2011-12 season and 17 goals in 78 games in the 2010-11 season.
Bickell was optimistic he would elevate his game to a higher level again when the playoffs arrived in April.
“I hope so,” Bickell said. “I feel my game is a playoff kind of game. There’s more hitting. There’s more physicality. I feel comfortable. You give everything you got in the playoffs. It’s not like I’m not giving everything I got now. I don’t know. It’s something about the time of year. The atmosphere and the will is the biggest thing.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been happier with Bickell’s play in the past month. Quenneville has increased Bickell’s minutes again, and he’s playing closer to 10 minutes in most games. He was held to less than 10 minutes in 10 games from Jan. 1 to the Olympic break.
“I think he’s trending,” Quenneville said. “It seems like when he’s got some pace to his game, he gets a couple of checks early in the game, he can bring something to our team. I think he’s got a big shot and a big body around the net. Hopefully here this latter part of the season he can really elevate his game. He makes us a better team when he’s going.”
The Olympic break did do Bickell well. He was able to step away from the game and refresh his mind after a rocky first half of the season. He also was able to rest his left knee that he injured the knee in November some more. He doesn’t expect it to be completely right this season, but it has improved and he’s adjusted to wearing a brace.
“The brace is the biggest thing,” Bickell said. “I don’t want it on there. Safety precautions are a big thing with knees. Anybody would be comfortable if you’re not carrying around two or three extra pounds on your knee and trying to skate around. This summer I’ll be looking forward to taking it off.
“It’s going to take time. Next summer is probably going to be a big summer to get it back to where it was. It’s a time thing. You can play through it. Come playoffs, you need to.”