Forced to hurry up because of Anaheim's physical play, Marian Hossa
, a 40-goal scorer in the regular season, felt uncomfortable having to dust himself off and get up off the ice. But he never stopped trying to find time and space against the Ducks.
"All it takes sometimes is a little spark for a guy as skilled as 'Hoss,'" said Johan Franzen
, who was put on a line with Hossa and Valtteri Filppula
midway through the first period of Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The move led to two goals each from Franzen and Hossa, who led the Red Wings to a 6-3 victory against the Ducks to even the series at two games apiece. Detroit eventually dispatched the Ducks in a hard-fought seven-game series to advance to the Western Conference Finals against longtime rival Chicago (Game 1, Sunday 3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS).
"When you can't get speed through the neutral zone, it makes you less effective," Hossa continued. "In Game 4, we scored a couple of goals on the rush. Sometimes it's a spark. Sometimes it's that you just want it a little more and you do whatever you have to make things work out."
The goals were the first by the 6-foot-1, 210-pound power forward who left the Pittsburgh Penguins
after a great run in last year's playoffs -- 3 goals and 4 assists in the final four games of the six-game Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings and had 12 goals and 14 assists in 20 playoff games -- to take less money in Detroit solely to have a better chance at winning his first Stanley Cup. He hadn't had a goal in the playoffs since scoring two goals in the finale of Detroit's sweep against Columbus in the Conference Quarterfinals.
"I keep telling him you've got to keep shooting the puck, keep driving to the net," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
Hossa did get a goal near the end of Game 3, but it was waved off because of a quick whistle when the referee stationed behind the net lost sight of the puck. Instead, the Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, native was left with nothing to show for his first 17 shots against Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller
"It's been frustrating," Hossa added. "You've got to give them credit for how hard they've been checking us. After this, I think we all feel pretty good that we can create more scoring chances."
There's no "I" in the team-first attitude Hossa brought with him to the defending champion Red Wings. So motivated was Hossa to win the Stanley Cup that he spurned the security of more lucrative, long-term offers to take a one-year, $7.45 million deal in Detroit -- leaving a five-year, $35 million deal to re-sign with Pittsburgh on the table as well as an amazing $80 million offer over nine years to go to Edmonton.
"Some people say I took a gamble, and maybe I did, by signing with Detroit for just one year, instead of taking a big long-term contract somewhere else. But this is everything I thought it would be so far. It's everything I wanted," Hossa said. "I'm 30 and the way I look at it, there are four or five years in your prime and my goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Coming to Detroit to a team that can go all the way, this is the kind of situation I've always hoped for.
"I came here for one reason. It's been a blast for me to play here. I know I get to play with great players. They give you the puck and it's a big difference when you've got the puck on your stick as opposed to playing without it."
Added coach Mike Babcock, "He's very dynamic without the puck, and the way we play, we think that's real important. This is his time of year."
Hossa's desire to win, his hunger, flows through the room.
"(Detroit) added a veteran heart-and-soul player like Dallas Drake
last year, hoping he could finally get to the Stanley Cup Final," Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore
told me in the first round of the playoffs. "This time, they went a step further by adding a world-class star."
Explained Hossa, "I had the chance to play against them last season and I know how hard it is. They are good defensively, but they can also move the puck as quick as anybody. More than that, I look at this as a learning curve.
"Some people say I took a gamble, and maybe I did, by signing with Detroit for just one year, instead of taking a big long-term contract somewhere else. But this is everything I thought it would be so far. It's everything I wanted. I'm 30 and the way I look at it, there are four or five years in your prime and my goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Coming to Detroit to a team that can go all the way, this is the kind of situation I've always hoped for." -- Marian Hossa
, Chris Chelios
, Pavel Datsyuk
, Henrik Zetterberg
. They've all got great experience at winning, and I'm learning from them. I know expectations are high in Detroit, but those expectations also help you to raise your game to an extremely high level, especially when you are competing with great players. So far, it's been a great ride, we're winning games and that's what's important."
Fitting in? That's an understatement according to Lidstrom, the Wings' captain.
"He's a very skilled player with the puck, real strong skater, really quick, good at going hard to the net, but the main reason he has fit in with this group so seamlessly is because he works so hard coming back in his own end, too, stripping players from pucks, similar to what Pavel does," Lidstrom observed. "We pride ourselves in being a hard-working team. I think that's where he really fits in as well."
For those who may not know all the money that this power forward with a powerful craving to win it all left on the bargaining table last July 1.
"Winning it all ... that's what it's all about," said Hossa. "That's why you play the whole year.
"It's such a long time, such hard work. The feeling after you win it must be amazing. Last year I was pretty close, and that kind of drives me to try to win it and feel that feeling."
And Marian Hossa
isn't afraid that he might have to pick himself up off the ice and dust himself off along the line if it means having a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Final ... and this time come out a winner.