The phrase describing a player as “being all over the place,” be it on a field or on ice, gets used a lot.
In the case of Marian Hossa, especially in Game 3 of the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators, it seemed fitting: another big-stage game, another big-stage performance for the right wing.
“Every season he gets older but he looks younger out there on the ice,” Brent Seabrook said. “He’s special. He’s one of those guys who it’s amazing to see.”
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Is it reaching that extra gear? Finding that second wind? They’re more clichés but they’re all applicable when it comes to Hossa’s ability to raise his game level when necessary. He was part of a top-line onslaught on Sunday, when he did everything but score a goal. And he was close to doing that, too. Hossa played 15 1/2 minutes, recording a team-high six shots, two takeaways and two hits. He also assisted on Jonathan Toews’ second-period goal, leaving a drop pass for Toews once he realized the Blackhawks captain was gaining.
“Yeah I was going to release it but then I saw he was coming right behind me and he was wide open,” Hossa said. “I just tried to drop it to him, go to the net. He picked a really low blocker and it was a hard shot to react on it.”
Hossa isn’t one to praise his own work; his teammates, however, are more than happy to do it.
“He’s always been, I would say, a playoff performer,” Michal Rozsival said. “Every time in his career, this time of the year he’s always elevated his game. He’s played well in the second half and continues to play well now. You can tell he loves this time of year.”
The Blackhawks’ top line of Hossa, Toews and Brandon Saad was not happy with how it played in Game 2 on Friday night. The three felt they could have been a lot better on both sides of the puck. With Nashville defenseman Shea Weber out of Game 3 – he would have faced that top line, as he usually does for the Predators – the trio knew it had to take advantage of his absence. Hossa was the catalyst for that, offensively and defensively.
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“He’s been real good,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Hoss is one of those players who guides our team by playing the right way. Whether it’s back checking or speed off the rush, you notice that pace he brings. He has even more of a step come playoff time. He knows what’s at stake and he likes to contribute at this time of the season.”
Hossa loves this time of year; that’s evident in his play. Perhaps the playoffs provide a fountain-of-youth affect or maybe it’s just being a veteran player who realizes the enormity of this time of year. Either way, Hossa has reached that next level, or hit the extra gear. The Blackhawks will take it.
“Hoss has been one of the best players in the league for a long time,” Seabrook said. “To be able to see him the last six or seven playoff runs we’ve been on, he always brings it and ratchets it up a little.”