By George Ofman-
(CBS) Stars are stars and role players, role players. But in these Stanley cup playoffs, the Blackhawks role players are playing like stars.
This is reminiscent of the 2010 season when Dustin Byfugien rolled all over the Vancouver Canucks like an 18 wheeler with blades. While Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp led the Hawks in scoring during their 22-game march toward the championship, players such as Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer had a major impact.
After 11 games in this season’s trek toward Lord Stanley’s coveted urn, Sharp, Kane and Marian Hossa are leading the pack but Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger are finding their names shining like neon lights on Rush Street.
This is how it’s done in hockey. Sometimes the least expected players jump off the page and over the boards to help win games. Bickell is one of them. With his smile interrupted by a lack of ivory, there have been plenty of teeth in the formidable winger’s determination. He is this season’s version of Byfuglien minus the considerable girth, though it’s part of why Byfuglien was so successful. He threw his massive frame around the rink while also scoring huge goals.
Bickell is doing the same thing along with touch in front of the net albeit, the touch of a garbage collector. Bickell calls them greasy goals. They all count. Bickell has five goals, one shy of Sharp’s team-leading six, though he scored five of those against the Minnesota Wild. And Bickell hasn’t been shy when it comes to using his body as a wrecking ball – witness his pulverizing hit on Joakim Andersson.
But Bickell’s arrival coincides with that of Shaw, Frolik and Kruger, the latter two who have been penalty killing menaces, slashing power play chances as if their sticks were machetes. And Frolic has added scoring to his resume, stunning Jimmy Howard with his nifty backhand penalty shot in game 6. Head Coach Joel Quenneville exclaimed he hadn’t seen that move during any practices. Perhaps there are other moves Frolik has in his arsenal.
And the pesky Shaw reminds me a bit of Andrew Ladd who gave role playing an added touch on the Stanley Cup winners with his blistering hits. Shaw isn’t quite at Ladd’s level yet, nor can he grow a playoff beard like Ladd, though the current member of the Winnipeg Jets wakes up with a five o’clock shadow. Shaw is still raw but he traded some of his testiness in game 5 for two goals. The 2010 team also featured battering rams Ben Eager, playoff tested John Madden and defenseman Brian Campbell who would certainly help this season’s confounding power play.
The Hawks can’t punish the opposition the way the Championship team did, relying more on finesse. It may come back to bite them in the end. They still need Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa to act like the stars they’re paid as but they also need their role players to continue making an impact. Now, if Bolland can be Bolland again and if Viktor Stalberg can assume the role of Kris Versteeg…
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM. Look for him on Facebook and find him on Twitter at @georgeofman.