CHICAGO | You'd figure Blackhawks strongman Bryan Bickell would have found a way to handle 6-foot-9 Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after both were pounding and screaming at each other during one on-ice tussle.
“Just slow him down in any way,” said the strapping 6-foot-4, 233-pound Bickell, who still yields five inches and 23 pounds to Chara.
“Just a little hit to finish a check and get him out of position for a second or two helps our defense, or our forwards to get into position. He covers a lot of ice out there. For the first game, we felt we did a good job against him.”
Chara is big and talented, but not the Man of Steel, said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews.
“He uses his size and his reach to his advantage, and I think maybe at times in the first couple games we were giving him a little bit too much respect by trying to keep the puck away from him,” he said. “He's not a guy that we should be afraid of. We should go at him, protect the puck from him, make plays around him and through him. We use our speed.
“You saw the goal that Marcus Krüger scored, ‘Fro’ (Michael Frolik) never stopped moving his feet and got around him – great play by those two guys to finish off that play. It's a small example of the way we can expose him.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville knows it’s an “ongoing battle, ongoing challenge” to counter Chara.
“Big minutes, big man, positionally strong and aware,” he said. “I just think that whether you're going away from him or at him, you've got to do some things to play in your favor.”
Bollig has best ‘fastball?’: Defenseman Brent Seabrook has one of the hardest slapshots on the Hawks, as he demonstrated twice in overtime – winning Game 7 of the conference semi-finals against the Red Wings and Game 4 against the Bruins.
Yet Seabrook may have a surprising rival in possessing the best “fastball” on the Hawks.
“He’d probably be right up there as far as slapshots,” Patrick Kane said of Seabrook. “Brandon Bollig actually has the hardest slapshot.”
Goalie Corey Crawford also agreed Bollig might have an edge on sheer speed of shot of all the teammates he faces in practice.
Slugger Bickell: Bickell has another use of his strength besides countering Chara. He and several teammates have been invited to take batting practice with the Cubs at Wrigley Field after the season.
The left-handed hitting Bickell knows how to swing a bat. He said he was scouted by the Yankees as a center fielder as a youth in Ontario before going full-bore into hockey.
“Power hitter,” he said of his childhood exploits. “My dad says I can’t hit a curve, but he doesn’t know.
“I think I have enough power to do so (slugging a homer at Wrigley).”