Will the third time be the charm for Marian Hossa
After losing in the Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins
in 2008 and then the Detroit Red Wings
in 2009, the four-time All-Star is hoping to reverse the curse with the Chicago Blackhawks
"I really don't think about it that way," Hossa told NHL.com. "I think about it as we have a good thing going on here (in Chicago) and I just want to help keep it going. What happened in the past happened, and this is a new year."
That's the mantra Hossa will stick with for however long the Blackhawks have a playoff pulse this spring. But still, you have to wonder if another setback, particularly if it occurs in the Final, will begin to take its toll on the 31-year-old Slovakian.
Hossa had 12 goals, 26 points and a plus-8 rating in 20 playoff games with the Penguins in 2008, but his team dropped a six-game series to the Red Wings in the Cup Final. He packed his bags and signed a big free-agent contract with the Red Wings the following season, but lost a seven-game thriller to the Penguins in last season's finale despite his 6 goals, 15 points and plus-5 rating in 23 postseason matches.
"Did the loss last year bother me?" asked Hossa. "For sure. In the summer, when you go home, you think about it, of course. It's a long year and we had great thing going on (in Detroit) and it's disappointing how we did end up. But on the other hand, I'm a happy guy because I do what I love to do and not many people can say they went two straight years to the Stanley Cup Finals. Some people don't even make it to even one Final their whole career, so it's not tragic (that I haven't won a Cup yet)."
Still, one wonders how the Chicago players are feeling heading into the postseason with Hossa aboard. Is he due or is he just a bad omen?
"I think if you asked every team in the League if they'd want Marian Hossa
on their team, I think they'd all say 'Yes,' " Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp
said. "On top of that, who wouldn't want an opportunity to even get to the Cup Final? If we get to the Final, we'll be happy to have Hoss there with us. He's one of the best players in the League and we know there are no guarantees in the playoffs. We went far last year and had a nice run but that doesn't guarantee we're getting back to the conference finals again this year anyway. We have to work for it, but we're prepared to do that."
Hossa certainly hasn't disappointed in his first season in Chicago after signing a monstrous 12-year deal worth $62.8 million on July 1, 2009. When he returned to the lineup after missing the first 22 games of the season following shoulder surgery, he produced 24 goals, 51 points and a team-high plus-24 rating in 57 games.
He's tied with Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows
for the League-lead with 5 shorthanded goals. Long lauded for his fine two-way play, Hossa has 21 career shorthanded goals -- ninth among active players.
Sharp and captain Jonathan Toews
feel there's a lot to learn by watching Hossa game in and game out.
"He's really good at protecting the puck," Sharp said. "He has such great hands and is quick. But whenever he's in trouble, he just sticks his back into you and then he can hang onto that puck and make plays. Whenever I'm in trouble, I just kind of dump it over to his side and let him handle it because he takes care of the puck so well."
Toews, who has centered a line with Hossa on his right and Sharp on the left on occasion, is a big admirer of Hossa's patience.
"He has so much skill but he never panics -- he doesn't rush anything," Toews said. "He knows by the way he plays that if he doesn't get a scoring chance, he'll just wait it out the next shift. He always knows that if he keeps working, things are going to happen for him. Sometimes I tend to get a little impatient, so I want to learn from him in that way."
While Hossa always has tried to perfect his defensive game, he admits his one season in Detroit opened his eyes to the fine art of backchecking.
"In Detroit, I watched guys like (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk, who is one of the best as a defensive-forward -- it's kind of fun to do it," Hossa said. "They were doing it and I was doing it and it's almost contagious. So I try to do it (in Chicago) because there are a lot of young guys doing it more and more. It's nice to see."
Hossa said he sees some similarities between the Penguins and Blackhawks.
"There are some similarities, especially with the Pens and Blackhawks because they both have young superstars coming up in the lineup," he said. "Detroit was a little different because they had an older team but with a lot of talent."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com