Pressure to perform accompanies $62.8 million and back-to-back Stanley Cup Final losses with two separate teams. Marian Hossa brings those variables and his own namesake “curse” onto the ice with him each night having to prove himself over again as an elite NHL forward who can win in the playoffs.
Hossa’s salary and lack of playoff success increase doubters with each drop of the puck, and his 2 goals in 14 playoff games don’t help his case on the surface. But the score sheet shouldn’t determine Hossa’s contributions to the Blackhawks’ playoff run this season, nor should it turn good hockey minds to mush.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com fired off this beauty after Game 2:
Imagine how dangerous this Hawks team might be if Marian Hossa and his $7.9 million salary decided to resume his playing career anytime soon? (OK, OK, Hossa did steal the puck from Niclas Wallin to set up Chicago’s fourth goal 6:18 into the third period and seal Tuesday night’s victory. But two goals in 14 postseason games doesn’t cut it.)
Paraphrasing the Joker: Why… so… critical? LeBrun proved himself ignorant to good hockey by pigeon-holing Hossa’s career to scoring goals. And how much more dangerous do the Blackhawks need to get, Pierre? They’ve won seven straight road playoff games, stole the first two games of the Western Conference Finals in one of the most difficult rinks to compete in and have officially boiled over frustrations of two normally composed teams (Vancouver being the other) simply because the Blackhawks are more talented. I’ll take it.
As Pierre so passively mentioned, Hossa’s rip of Wallin showed exactly what he’s been doing throughout the entire playoffs — being a force on the forecheck and back-check. Hossa’s knack to knock people off the puck, then possess it long enough and efficiently enough to create offensive chances for his teammates, is a thing of beauty. He kills penalties with the best of them by reading the opposition’s next pass and he is a nightmare to contain — whether he’s putting the puck in the net or not.
And let’s not forget — Hossa scored an overtime goal that swung a series.
I don’t care if a player is getting paid $1, $7.9 million or $90 million per season, those intangibles win hockey games. The Blackhawks’ run this postseason hasn’t required him to put up big offensive numbers. Jonathan Toews is leading the Conn Smyth race right now with 23 points, and the balanced scoring from the supporting cast is doing plenty for the ‘Hawks.
Just because Hossa is generously paid doesn’t mean he has to score goals to help his team. Yes, he said he’s offensively frustrated and the puck hasn’t gone in as much as he’d like. A big goal scorer is bound to feel that way. But do you really think he’ll care if the ‘Hawks raise the Cup? I sure as hell won’t.
Be sure if the ‘Hawks win six more games, Hossa will be a big reason why — even if he doesn’t light up the score sheet.