Dylan Sikura has been an offensive player his entire hockey career. In juniors, in college and in the American Hockey League he was relied upon to score goals and put up points and had no problem doing it at those first three levels.
It's the NHL where it hasn't translated as easily.
After a 43-game drought to open his NHL career, Sikura finally scored his first goal and celebrated by leaping into the arms of Erik Gustafsson. It was a huge relief for Sikura, who did his best to stay patient throughout the process, but you knew it was eating at him internally.
"I waited a long time for that," Sikura said following the Blackhawks' 4-2 comeback win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Sunday. "As much as I tried to not let it affect me, obviously at the end of the day it's going to and it's going hurt your confidence a little. Sometimes when you're not scoring it kind of feels like you're not doing much out there even if maybe you are. It's nice to get that weight off my back and hopefully get a couple more here."
Sikura became the fifth player on the Blackhawks this season to score his first career NHL goal, joining Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Dennis Gilbert and Dominik Kubalik. It took only two games for Boqvist, Dach and Kubalik to get on the board, all of whom made it seem easier than it really is.
Sikura had to wait nearly two years for his turn, but he no longer has to wonder when it's going to come. He capitalized beautifully on Gustafsson's rebound by burying the puck into a wide-open net to even the score at 2-2 in the middle frame. It was the second goal in 45 seconds for the Blackhawks, who scored four unanswered to finish the game.
"I was telling the guys," Sikura said, "I think that's something I pictured, that exact scenario maybe a thousand times before bed."
Perhaps the best part about Sikura breaking through is how much his teammates wanted it for him. Before every game, somebody would make a comment to Sikura about how this is going to be the night. On Sunday, it was Jonathan Toews.
"It was awesome," Dylan Strome said. "I hope there's a bench reaction. We were going crazy for the bench for him, obviously. It sucks; it took me 12 games and I was thinking about it every single night and I'm sure he was too. You know he's thinking about it — the guy can score goals, makes plays, he's been doing it all since he's been here. Tazer said today that he 'feels it today, Sikky,' and he gets that all the time, but I think this one stuck with him and he put it right home."
"Tazer had a good feeling for me tonight," Sikura said. "So cheers to him."
On second thought, maybe sharing that special moment with your teammates isn’t Sikura’s favorite part about scoring his first NHL goal.
Two reporters approached Sikura on separate occasions after morning skate on Sunday to talk about whether his scoring slump is taking a toll on him. Those questions can finally be put to rest.
"I don't have to listen to you guys ask me about it anymore," a smiling Sikura said. "That's nice."
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