The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten production from many of their top stars through 12 games in 2013. However, help has also come from some less expected skaters.
Several players who were often maligned for various reasons are making major contributions to the Blackhawks lineup. It isn't always coming in the form of goals, but these players have turned around their games from a season ago.
Bickell seems to be bringing a physical element to the ice on a more consistent basis. He is one of the guys on the third line who is creating scoring opportunities.
Don't look now, but Bickell is fifth on the team with seven points on the season. The names above him? Just Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Bickell also leads the 'Hawks with 29 hits, one of which nearly took Ryan Getzlaf out of his skates Tuesday night.
Having spent a lot of time in street clothes as a healthy scratch, Bickell has turned his fortunes around in what amounts to a contract season. He's been a solid contributor for Chicago.
When Bickell wasn't in the doghouse in 2011-12, his checking linemate Frolik was there. Frolik is skating fourth-line minutes, but providing solid defensive play.
He has been a big part of the penalty kill's success and is working hard all over the ice. He may never approach the offensive prowess of his first two seasons in Florida, but right now he is helping out in a big way on the other end.
Hjalmarsson has also played well on the short-handed unit. What has really turned his stock around in Chicago is teaming with Johnny Oduya to form a second defensive pair that can finally rest Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.
As a fifth or sixth defenseman, Hjalmarsson—with his $3.5 million cap hit—was subject to trade talk. As part of such an effective second tandem and a sound penalty killer, that deal seems like a bargain.
You're not going to get much in the way of scoring from Hjalmarsson, so accept that. He is second on the team to Seabrook in blocked shots with 32 this season. Moreover, he seems more confident and patient with the puck in his own end.
Crawford has played with more confidence between the pipes, period. Ignore the shootout losses. He has been a much better goalie in his third season and second as full-time starter.
Crawford's 1.65 goals-against average is third in the NHL. His .935 save percentage is good for fourth.
Crow leads the league with seven wins in 10 starts in 2013. He also posted the team's first shutout in nearly two years against Nashville. It's hard to say he hasn't returned with a vengeance after some tough times last season.