Marian Hossa talked about his goal-scoring struggles. They had been there through most of the regular season and continued through the first four games of the first round.
“It’s a little frustration, but also you don’t try to get frustrated because then you’re not playing your way. You also try to stay positive because there are lots of chances,” Hossa said heading into Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues. “Our guys are getting lots of chances. One ugly one and hopefully it’s gonna go in.”
Hossa’s first goal of the postseason wasn’t ugly; it was a slick, short-handed goal that gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. And Hossa’s overall game is what he was looking for and what the Blackhawks needed in their 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Blues. Hossa played just under 25 minutes on Thursday, recording a team-high seven shots on goal and three takeaways.
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The Blackhawks made drastic line changes entering Thursday’s game for several reasons. A few top players, Hossa included, were still looking for their first goal of the postseason. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the series and looking for a spark of any kind. And they were trying to figure out a way to contain the Blues’ top line of Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Stopping that Blues’ trio was the Blackhawks’ overall assignment, but fell mainly to Hossa, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Ladd. It worked pretty well. While Schwartz did score on Thursday, the Blackhawks held the other two off the score sheet. That was especially key regarding Tarasenko, who had three goals and two assists in the three previous games.
Bringing Hossa into that equation helped.
“Hoss should be a role model for every single young player. Just to look at him and see how he back-checks and how strong he is with the puck. Still going so strong with his age,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said of the 37-year-old Hossa. “He's one of the most impressive guys that I've been around, the way he works in every single way.”
Perhaps Hossa’s strong Game 5 came with getting moved to the third line, getting a bit of a change. Or maybe, like a few other players, he was just due. Whatever the reason, Hossa made an impact on both sides of the puck.