How much should a third and fourth line produce? That was a topic of conversation during last night’s postgame show, following the Blackhawks loss in Pittsburgh.
All four lines need to be productive, but in the National Hockey League, only two lines are counted on to score, consistently. The Blackhawks have gotten that; thus the team is at the top of the NHL heap with a 21-9-4 record.
Assuming Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik stay together on the third line, their job -- first and foremost -- is to shut down the opponent’s top line. Along the way, they may get a few chances; they need to capitalize every now and then.
The role of the fourth line, which is anchored by Jamal Mayers, is to provide energy and, in the process, DO NOT get scored upon.
That’s how virtually every team in the NHL works. Some bottom-two lines around the league have more skill than others, so they chip in more often.
This leads us to Bryan Bickell, another topic of conversation last night (or as I was asked: “What’s wrong with him?”).
Bickell has admitted he’s battling his confidence. For Head Coach Joel Quenneville, Bickell’s lack of consistency is the issue.
As the biggest winger on the team, Coach Q expects Bickell to use his substantial frame to be a physical force and score the occasional goal.
When it comes to his goal production, you have to put Bickell’s numbers in perspective.
He has good hands for a big man, as well as a deceptive shot. He was never a big scorer in the minors or junior. He racked up 17 goals last year, bouncing around to different lines. But he played his best hockey with Bolland and Frolik toward the end of the year.
Quiz question, how many of those 17 goals did he have after Frolik joined the team in early February? Answer: four goals in 27 games.
Bickell can be productive without putting up big offensive numbers.
The same goes for the Blackhawks’ third and fourth lines.