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Bickell, Keith defend themselves against accusations of playing dirty
Bryan Bickell didn’t hear from the league for his knee-on-knee hit on Vladimir Sobotka in Game 2, but he got an earful from the St. Louis Blues.
“There was a similar hit on [Alex] Pietrangelo the first period that was really concerning by the same player (Bickell),” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. When you’re leg-whipping people, it’s a concern because it’s career-ending. That’s ACL, career-ending. That’s a big concern for me, the safety of the players. That part bothers me more than the hit on David [Backes], a hit that went awry. The hit on Sobotka was a continuation of what happened to Petro in the first period.”
The Hawks suddenly find themselves defending their reputation as a clean, classy team. Aside from Brent Seabrook’s three-game suspension for his high hit on Backes, and the apparent taunting of Backes afterward, both Bickell and Duncan Keith have been accused of playing dirty. While Hitchcock called out Bickell, Don Cherry of Hockey Night In Canada ripped Keith for a series of aggressive slashes and sneaky stickwork.
The Hawks shrugged off the criticism, but admitted they need to be more careful. St. Louis had nine power plays in Game 2.
“When you’ve got an iso-camera on you the whole game — if you iso-cammed every player out there, I’m sure you’d see other guys slashing and things like that,” Keith said. “You don’t want to take a penalty, and I’ve got to be smart.”
Bickell said the two knee hits were a product of Blues trying to avoid getting hit.
“They are hockey plays,” he said. “I’m going to try to finish my check every time. I don’t think I’m a dirty player that looks to throw knees out, or hit high. I’m just an honest checker. Things like that are going to happen. Guys want to get out of the way to avoid hits. It happens that way and I just need to keep going.”
Bickell said the refs were trying to rein in the rough stuff in Game 2, and the Hawks will have to respond accordingly.
“It was kind of different from the first game, where everything was free will,” Bickell said. “We could play hockey and it was a playoff kind of atmosphere. And then the last game, we felt like we couldn’t do anything. Different refs have different looks to the game. We just need to keep our stick down and play between the whistles.”
The Blues — the team far more known for its physical, agitating style — said they won’t be seeking revenge for any of the hits. Enforcer Ryan Reaves chalked up last year’s first-round loss to Los Angeles — in which the Blues lost four straight after winning the first two games — to the Blues “running around and getting frustrated.”
And if the Hawks want to abandon their style to play rough, that’s fine with St. Louis.
“Everybody is hitting,” Reaves said. “You see Seabrook trying to lay a big hit, he’s not known for that. You see Keith kind of getting under guys’ skin — I think [he’s had] what, one fight in five years? I think guys play out of their shell a little bit and I think you have to. I think we’ve done a good job of easing that a little bit. They try to get under our skin and play physical, I think we’ve skated right through it and played well through it.”
As for revenge for Backes?
“We can go send them packing, shining up the golf clubs a little bit,” Reaves said. “I think that would be the best revenge right now. We can get them next year or whenever it happens. Right now, taking care of this series is the best way to do it.”