CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa
and Dany Heatley found new homes during the offseason after proving they can be elite goal scorers that can carry a team offensively for stretches.
Both had successful regular seasons -- Hossa had 24 goals in just 57 games for the Chicago Blackhawks after missing the first seven weeks due to offseason shoulder surgery; Heatley had 39 goals for the San Jose Sharks.
Now, however, both are having a difficult time finding the back of the net during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hossa, who came to Chicago after signing a 12-year, $63 million contract in July, has just 2 goals in 14 games. The lack of production from the sniper hasn't hurt the Blackhawks, who have a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals against the Sharks. It's been easy to hide Hossa thanks to the other-worldly play of the team's top line of Patrick Kane
, Jonathan Toews
and Dustin Byfuglien.
Despite the series lead and the team getting along fine without Hossa's scoring, the 31-year-old doesn't feel that gets him off the hook.
"It's great we're winning, definitely great, but I don't know if it's going to take the pressure off me," Hossa said. "It's not me when I'm not scoring. Obviously I try to play both ends of the ice, but definitely another goal or a couple would be nice to get me going, get me more productive goal-wise.
It's not as though Hossa hasn't been contributing in other areas.
His 11 assists are tied for second on the team with Kane, and Hossa made a great play in Game 2 by stripping Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin of the puck to help set up Troy Brouwer's back-breaking goal that put the Blackhawks ahead 4-1. He's a big part of the penalty-killing unit, and linemate Patrick Sharp
said even if Hossa's not scoring, he's doing other things that might go unnoticed.
"Sure, that would be nice," Sharp said about Hossa potentially scoring a few more goals. "But he's playing great. He one of our best forwards every night whether he scores or not. I know first-hand because I play with him every shift. He puts me in position to score. He does so many things on the ice that make my job as easier as a centerman. He comes back; he's one of the best two-way forwards in the League and doesn't get credit for it.
"There's definitely no finger-pointing or pressure on Marian."
Even with that support, Hossa knows he can better.
"I'm not happy with the 2 goals," Hossa said. "I feel I don't play badly or anything like that. I feel good in there on the ice. The finishing is not there how I'd like. It's what I have to be more focused on, the finishing when I'm shooting the puck."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville doesn't see a player struggling to score. He sees a player who remains dangerous and is on the verge of a breakout.
"We expect him to produce, but at the same time we like the way he contributes to our team," Quenneville said. "I still think he's a great threat, a great weapon. I think his productivity is probably waiting to explode."
Heatley, meanwhile, knows exactly what Hossa is going through.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson pulled a deal with the Ottawa Senators just before the start of the regular season to get Heatley, and so far he's seen his prize acquisition score twice in 12 postseason games. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said before the start of the conference finals that Heatley had been playing hurt (he missed Game 3 of the first round against the Avalanche) but is healthy now after the Sharks' eight-day rest before taking on the Blackhawks.
Just like Hossa, the 29-year-old Heatley has had trouble finishing his chances but has pitched in as a set-up guy with a team-leading 10 assists. But unlike Hossa, who has the luxury of being a second-line player on a team that's winning, Heatley is a top-line skater who has been firing blanks for a team that needs to win four of its next five games to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
"When you're a goal-scorer, you got to score goals," said Heatley. "I haven't had that many so far. I feel like I'm getting shots, I'm getting chances. Sometimes it goes in for you, sometimes it doesn't. I got to find a way to score some goals."
Heatley had five shots in Game 1 against the Blackhawks, but he ran into the Finnish wall that is goaltender Antti Niemi, who made 44 saves that afternoon. Heatley has 1 goal in his last six games, and it wasn't exactly a game-changer -- it cut the Detroit Red Wings' 6-0 lead to 6-1 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals in a game the Sharks would lose 7-1.
With 299 goals in eight NHL seasons, Heatley says he certainly expects more of himself going forward in these playoffs.
And his coach agrees.
"Yep. There's no other way to say it," McLellan said when asked if it's time Heatley started finishing his chances. "As coaches, we're always aware that there's 19 others who play the game, as well. We need that from some others. But Heater has the skill and the ability and the past that he's proven he can put the puck in the net.
"There's some pressure on him right now. He feels it. And I'm sure he'll handle it appropriately."
Neither Hossa nor Heatley has been finishing. But Hossa and the Blackhawks have some margin for error in this series. If Heatley doesn't start finishing, the Sharks could be just that -- finished. Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer