Blackhawks

Hossa primed for a big year

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Hossa primed for a big year

Marian Hossa finally got a restful summer.

The Chicago Blackhawks right wing had basically played four seasons' worth of hockey in three, thanks to back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances. It had taken it's toll. So as disappointed as he was in that the Blackhawks' run ended early last season, he appreciated the chance to rest, get away from the game and train the way he wants.

And just two games in, it's showing.

Hossa did everything but score a goal in his first two games, and that is something that coach Joel Quenneville has appreciated in Hossa all along. Hossa has a complete game, one that's as strong defensively as it is offensively. And the points will get there soon enough.

"You can look at the stat sheet, but whether he scores or not you know he has the puck, he strips people of it, he protects it, he has it and his positioning is always strong," Quenneville said. "He does some amazing things out there. That's how I appreciate what he brings to our team."

Hossa didn't miss a beat despite joining the Blackhawks five days after training camp began and he's been one of the team's top performers in their first two games. He recorded eight shots in Dallas and looks as fit and energetic as ever.

"Mentally and physically, it takes a toll whether it's one summer (of a lot of hockey) or three. For a guy like that (the long break) makes a huge difference," Jonathan Toews said. "Whether you increase expectations or not, he looks good out there. I think he's ready to play his best hockey and that's only going to help us."

And as much as everyone would like to see the high point totals immediately, Hossa is also aiming for another big number elsewhere.

"For sure I would like to play 80, 82 games. That would be my goal," he said recently. "Because I had the longer summer and recovery program, hopefully that helps."

His speed and strength have been evident from the outset. When the Blackhawks went with seven defensemen instead of 12 forwards in their season opener, Hossa double-shifted. He's also found chemistry with Patrick Kane, whose move to center gave the Blackhawks the chance to get the two together. Kane said he's noticed how the summer has benefitted Hossa.

"He looks like he has a powerful stride this year," Kane said. "He's a great backchecker and great defensive player stripping other guys. I'm just happy to be playing with a guy like that and hopefully I just get him the puck in good areas. He looks fast, he looks strong, he looks ready like he's ready to have a big year."

There's no reason to think Hossa won't have a big year again. He had time to recover from those injuries that plagued him the past few seasons. His complete game. A plethora of points shouldn't be far behind.

"I think he's got surprise shots on the ice; he's so quick," said Michael Frolik. "I know he hasn't scored but it's just about that time. He had eight shots in Dallas. It's going to go in soon."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.