In last night’s 3-2 victory that sent the series to a seventh game, Stu Bickel was nowhere to be found. In fact, he only played three shifts the entire game for less than two minutes of ice time. In the Rangers 2-0 loss in Game Five, Bickel played just seven shifts for less than five minutes of ice time. Game Four? Seven shifts for 3:33 of ice time. Game Three? Ten and 9:18. Game Two? Six and 3:40. His first ever playoff game? Eight and 6:42.
Total all that together, and you get 41 shifts for roughly 32 minutes of ice time. Bickel is getting about as much time as Mike Rupp. John Tortorella is rolling five defensemen right now, and it makes you wonder why.
Bickel was one of the coach’s favorite defensemen during the season. Bickel saw time on the top four while Marc Staal was working his way back to regular playing time. With Staal fully healthy and back to at least 85% of his former self, compounded with the emergence of Anton Stralman as an apparent offensive and defensive force, Bickel has been seeing more pine than a dendrophiliac.
It makes you wonder if and when someone like Steve Eminger –who is healthy enough to play– will get a shot in the lineup. It’s not like Bickel is bringing anything other than some intimidation to the bench. But intimidation only means something if you play. Just ask John Scott how long his intimidation factor lasted with the Rangers.
Prior to Game Six, when the Rangers looked like they were running around in their own zone, you have to question why Torts didn’t at least try to dress someone with more foot speed than Bickel. Was Eminger just not ready? Surely the Rangers would have benefited from at least dressing him a game to see what they have. It’s not like they are really sacrificing ice time, reliability, or chemistry (that we know of). What Eminger lacks in physicality he makes up for in foot speed, at least when you compare him to the now pine-riding Bickel.
Every single forward has more ice time than Bickel, including Rupp. That speaks volumes when there are twice as many forwards as there are defensemen. The top five on the Rangers appear more than willing to play the full 60 minutes –well, 58 minutes.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that this series has been played at even strength for about 50% of the series, and there haven’t been many opportunities to get Bickel out there at even strength.
Maybe it has to do with matchups. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh must be out there for the Jason Spezza line. Marc Staal and Anton Stralman must be out there for any combination of Kyle Turris, Chris Neil, and any other scoring threat. Bickel could only be getting ice time against the Senators fourth line, but even they are seeing twice amount of ice as Bickel.
So again, what is the point of dressing him right now? Is there anything lost in seeing what Eminger can do?