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Adding Hossa scary thought for Hawks opponents

Wednesday, 11.25.2009 / 1:46 PM / NHL Network

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"When Hossa, Toews and Kane come over the boards there is a sense of discomfort right away for the opponent and that creates its own dynamic. You always have to plan for three guys that individually are hard to check one-on-one. You can commit two guys to one guy and all of a sudden the other two guys are open." -- Craig Button

Every coach and player in the NHL will tell you matching up against the Chicago Blackhawks today is a bigger challenge than it was yesterday because of Marian Hossa.

Shocking analysis, we know.

But how, or even why, does Hossa, an elite forward in the NHL for a decade now, make this particular lineup better?

We went to NHL Network analyst Craig Button to break it down.

"Hossa gives them lots of advantages and options," Button told NHL.com.

For instance, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will start Hossa on the top line Wednesday in San Jose with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It has the ingredients to be one of the best lines in the NHL because of its skill, creativity, instincts and the fear it gives the opposition.

"When Hossa, Toews and Kane come over the boards there is a sense of discomfort right away for the opponent and that creates its own dynamic," Button said. "You always have to plan for three guys that individually are hard to check one-on-one. You can commit two guys to one guy and all of a sudden the other two guys are open. You saw it in Detroit with Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg."

Hossa always has been someone who likes to play physical. To beat him one-on-one, a defender has to be more physical, but if Kane and Toews are the other skaters on the line, Button warns that the opposition will have to be careful in how hard it plays Hossa.

"Teams have to be reluctant to run around being physical on him because those other two guys will beat you on their own," Button said. "Marian won't have to worry about having opponents bearing down on him all the time."

In the short term -- remember, lines in this League only should be talked about in the short term -- Button thinks Hossa will work with Kane and Toews because he won't have to be the man right away.

The presence of the other two stars should give him time to adapt to game speed.

"You have two guys that are really functioning at a high level. They can support him and it allows Marian to get his feet wet without all the pressure," Button said. "He's a top player but he's not going to be at the top of his game right off the bat. It allows him to get strong support and feel his way in."

The other point Button stressed was now teams have to be aware of all angles on the ice, because not is there Toews with Hossa and Kane, but defensemen like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson join the play, too.

"You better be ready for five guys on the attack coming at you," Button said. "When you talk about game planning, the five guys out on the ice against those guys really have to be aware of what is going on because they are going to come at you from every angle and every position. They're going to create multiple points of attack.

"You might close Hossa down at the goal line, but Duncan Keith is jumping in at the blue line. You might be prepared for Keith, but the play goes to Toews and then to Kane. They are so effective at creating those options and they do it quickly."

If Quenneville chooses to break up the Hossa-Toews-Kane line at some point, Button said he can instead choose to play with pairs, using Hossa with Toews and Kane with Patrick Sharp, another sharpshooter.

He can fill his lines in from there with options ranging from Kris Versteeg to Dustin Byfuglien to Andrew Ladd to Troy Brouwer.

"They have depth in skill and they can really create advantages for themselves," Button said. "Let's say (Detroit coach) Mike Babcock says he's going to use (defenseman) Nicklas Lidstrom to shut down that Kane-Toews-Hossa line. All of a sudden Joel Quenneville can put Kane and Sharp together and leave Hossa and Toews together. It allows them to create huge advantages against the other team's second-tier players. I don't want to use second-tier in a negative connotation, but the better players should take advantage of them."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.


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