Blackhawks Confidential

Hossa looks close to exploding on offense; power play needs him for a great trip

hossajan18.jpgIf the Blackhawks are going to take a fantastic 2-0 start to an 8-game journey and turn it into a memorable stretch that solidifies their status as the NHL's best team, Marian Hossa must be one of the reasons a good trip zooms into overdrive and becomes great.

Hossa didn't score a point Sunday in regulation or overtime during the 4-3 shootout win at Detroit. But the skillful right wing managed a season high of 7 shots and he contributed a deft shootout score that preceded Patrick Sharp's game winner.

I covered horse racing at one point in my career. This Ol' Hoss looks ready to bust loose based on his recent starts and run wild. Get your bets down on number 81. He's champing at the bit to chew up some scenery with a star turn.

While shootout scores don't count in individual statistics, Hossa looked better than you might think from his rare box score of 0-0-0 against his former team.

Resuming Tuesday night in Ottawa, I think the fact Hossa has 11 points from his last nine games and made a late flurry at the Red Wings Sunday is an indication that he is about to flash his superstar form when most needed.

The injury-riddled Senators have been using Mike Brodeur in goal currently after not getting much from either Pascal Leclaire (out with concussion) or Brian Elliott. Broduer, 26, was a surprising 3-0 in his first taste of the NHL this year going into Monday afternoon's game at Boston, where he was held out due to sickness apparently and Elliott started.

Provided the sickness was temporary, the Hawks might get their shot at Brodeur Tuesday night, because his success seems to demand he remains the man of the moment. It could go either way, however, after Elliott fared well in beating the Bruins 5-1.

Brodeur is a former 7th-round pick of the Hawks in 2003 and stands out as the kind of easy pickings that will make Hossa's eyes light up like neon if he gets an opportunity to face him.

Brodeur initially won Dec. 9 against Minnesota, then prevailed again last Thursday and Saturday against the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. A top-flight team like the Hawks should burst his bubble and bring him back to earth.

The Hawks are certainly familiar with Brodeur, who who was 2-3 in 8 games for the Rockford Hogs in '07-'08 before moving on to the Pensacola Pilots that year. He eventually made his way ever downward into the Florida Panthers system before landing in Ottawa.

Brodeur would be surely pumped to show his former organization that he is NHL-worthy, but there seems no reason he shouldn't be put in his place by the overpowering Hawks if they indeed collide.

"I didn't really get a chance in Chicago's organization," Brodeur told the Ottawa Sun, a quote we have heard about 10 million times from 10 million never-will-be's and one or two reclamation projects who pan out.

Nor has he been mistaken yet for the great Martin Brodeur. And the Hawks beat the better Brodeur and New Jersey 5-1 New Year's Eve.

"I was told by an uncle that (he's) in the family tree, but he wouldn't be in the family reunion or anything like that," Mike Brodeur said about Martin. "Big spotlight to be chasing, having that name Brodeur."

Hossa is overdue to join the power play in progress. In 26 games this season he has scored just once on the power play and that was Jan. 3 against Anaheim. Of Hossa's 40 goals last season for Detroit in 74 games, 10 were power play.

His best year on the man advantage was with the '06-'07 Atlanta Thrashers when he compiled 17 in 82 games. Even in a 60-game season with '07-'08 Thrashers, he managed 8 goals on the power play.

So if Hossa doesn't break his power-play drought on the trip, something is wrong and coach Joel Quenneville has to find a way to rectify it. Hossa must be a power-play influence for Chicago to be at its most efficient and realize its championship vision.

That could be even more important in seperating the Hawks from the Senators, who are the NHL's worst power play with a 13.77 success ratio from 23 goals in 167 chances.

If the Hawks' usually strong penalty killers keep Ottawa powerless, and Hossa begins to contribute his usual share on the power play, Chicago should rise to 3-0 on the trip and head into tougher challenges down the road with the important impetus of momentum.

Hossa's ability to settle rolling pucks and get off quick shots makes him an ever-present threat. You need to watch him closely, because he can strike fast as a cobra, and when he must, his burst of skating speed is as good as anyone's. His usually tenacious defense is another major plus, shall we say, and a deadly combination.

He is a plus-11 in his last 9 games because his line's defense hasn't taken away from his offense. The last time he was a minus-1 in a game was Dec. 29 in Dallas. That ended a bad patch of three straight games for him at minus-1 and he has been tougher in the new year, ringing up bodies as well as points.

Hossa's numbers so far are solid: 12 goals, 12 assists in 26 games, 2 shorthanders, 2 game winners and a plus-13. But he was a plus-27 for last year's Red Wings, so more is expected and needed. Good sometimes isn't good enough if your team is looking for a great season.

His reputation is as a breakout player who can score in bunches. There is no time like the present for Hossa to embellish that image.

Even for a team like the Hawks that is balanced and spreads out the wealth in production, superstars must be game changers.

Patrick Kane has proven to be just that, choosing this year to shoot on occasions when he would have passed last season. So when Kane darts into the prime slot area as he did with the power play Sunday in Detroit he can just as soon bury one in the net as pass.

Kane should start drawing more defenses toward him, knowing he isn't primarily a passer on most occasions any more. That should free some space for Hossa to deliver greater impact.

You have to suspect that once Kane and Hossa are both clicking at their finest, supported with the secondary offense of Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews, we may see more fireworks than we have so far.

That boggles the mind to anticipate. We're getting spoiled. But it feels pretty good to be smuggery.

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15 Comments

Northernhawk said:

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I hope you are right about Hossa. He seems to be shopping for a cup, but failed to deliver the merchandise in May and June of 08 and 09 when it was important. But his play was excellent in his early years in the NHL with Ottawa (including in the post-season), something the fans in Canada's capital will no doubt forget come Tuesday night. Out of curiosity, and not to pre-judge anything, do you know whether any other player has played in 3 Stanley cups in a row for 3 different teams?

Mike Kiley said:

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I suck at trivia, among many other things. But I'm sure we have some smart blogger, reader or vagrant out there who can answer the call on that one.

SharpKane said:

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Considering the recent trend of hired mercenaries due to the CBA/Cap, I doubt it would have happened anytime other than the not too distant past, in which case, Hossa would be the only one.

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, Marian Hossa should be sending his ex-boss, Sens owner Gene Melnyk, a little greeting card on Tuesday.

Melnyk gave Hossa the shaft, signing him and shipping him to the Thrash.

A winning goal by The Hoss Man would settle that score.

fattybeef said:

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Gord Pettinger (Rangers in 1933, Red Wings in 1937 and Bruins in 1939), Al Arbour (with the Wings in 1954, Chicago in 1961 and as a Leaf in 1962 and '64), Larry Hillman (with the '55 Red Wings, '64 and '67 vintage Maple Leafs and as a Canadien in 1969), Claude Lemieux (with Montreal in 1986, New Jersey in 1995 and Colorado in 1996) and Mike Keane (Montreal in 1993, Colorado in 1996 and with the Stars in 1999). They all won cups with different teams, two years in a row for a few some are seperated by a couple years according to the google search I just did.......

Dave Morris said:

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Thank goodness for fattybeef.

Drinks for everyone--Kiley's buyin'!

Northernhawk said:

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Thanks! So this would be a first then, 3 years, 3 teams, 3 finals... But the comparison will end there. You have to admit it will make a great trivia question!

fattybeef said:

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Well I participated in a rant in the last one so I needed to do something somewhat productive to even things out. And now that I think about it, it would be pretty nuts to play in 3 Cups in 3 years for 3 different teams. Lets hope 3rd times a charm.

Northernhawk said:

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Ottawa has just won their fourth in a row. Should we be concerned? Their captain is back from missing 11 games and he scored a hat trick. They are thirsty for a win against the league's best.

iplagitr said:

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Northernhawk, if I remember correctly, you have tickets to this game, right? The only thing you should be concerned with tonight is losing your voice with the amount of Hawk scoring chances you'll see, and developing an acute case of vertigo as you watch the Hawks skate circles around the Sens all evening.

We'll be looking for that red jersey in the crowd!

VegasHawksFan said:

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Winning their fourth only puts them closer to breaking the streak with a loss. I like the idea of Hossa breaking out and I kind of agree. With his linemates becoming more and more comfortable, he has got to be due at some point to have a killer run of scoring. Last year, I was definitely one of the people talking shit about his jumping from team to team to be a cup whore. Two things have changed my mind about that. First of all, he may still be just a cup whore, but he's our cup whore. Second, he chose the long term deal here when he could have been just another one year mercenary. Looking at the young core the Hawks have locked up, I would think he chose wisely. Even though they booed and he didn't light it up in the SCF last year, I doubt there is one real fan in Detroit who wouldn't love to have him back.

Jerry Kayne said:

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I'm with you nklhd12. I like Hossa on PP line 2 for the 2nd wave of pressure. But it needs to turn pressure into points.

My suggestion is to have another line 1 or 2 skill player at the point. Sharp and Brouwer replacing Buff who double-shifts. How about putting Hossa back on "D" on the 1st shift and double-shift him up to forward for the 2nd wave if needed?

fattybeef said:

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How bout this mind bender:

What happens to the line-up when Bolland and Burish come back? You know Kopecky is going to get bounced when Bolland returns in the next few weeks but after that who do you unload or move or bench? Do you break up the Madden, Steeger and Buff line? Just move Sharp over to the wing and have him continue to play with Hossa and drop Ladder down? I hope the silver stashe has some good answers for that one...... Or do you just leave Burish out of the line up even though him and Eager are the two best players at getting in the other teams head? And how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop?

SpawnOfDitka said:

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I'll save Q the time and give him his lines...
Kane Toews Brower
Hossa Bolland Sharp
Steeger Madden Ladd
Buff Burish Eager

Kopecky, Frasier as healthy scratches
That's rolling 4 lines with an awesomely tenacious 4th line!!

VegasHawksFan said:

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I'm thinkin pretty much what Spawn is, though Versteeg as always is kind of a wild card. He hasn't shown a solid propensity to be a grinder and shut down guy, but then again, neither is Sharp. I'd probably put Sharp down with the third. As for Burish, it's probably going to take him awhile to get back to speed. They may need to rotate their scratches a few times.

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