Chicago’s do-it-all veteran used to be focused on offense, but he’s found happiness in a two-way game.
Perhaps no sequence better displays Marian Hossa’s profound impact on the Blackhawks than Bryan Bickell’s goal late in the third period of the Chicago’s 4-1 Game 2 victory on Sunday. ¶ With the Wild controlling the tempo in the Blackhawks zone, Hossa fought for control of the puck along the boards with Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. Without much effort, Hossa snaked the puck away. He then outmaneuvered Wild winger Zach Parise for position in the middle of the ice, or as NBC broadcaster Mike Emrick put it, Hossa was able to “sashay” to the center. The breakaway was on. ¶ Skating alongside Bickell, Hossa held on to the puck until the right moment, delivered a smooth pass to Bickell who fired the puck in optimal shooting position to beat Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. It was 3-1 Blackhawks, and the game was all but over. ¶ The accolades and the cheers afterward were for Bickell, but the play wouldn’t have happened without Hossa.
Once upon a time during his long career, Hossa said he craved the goals and primarily cared about putting up statistics. But now he takes more pride in his overall game — much to the detriment of Blackhawks opponents.
“I was all about scoring goals and offense, offense, offense,” Hossa said. “I just learned over those years how to play both ends of the ice, and I just started enjoying it more. Maybe I gave up that offense.
“I wasn’t cheating as much or I wasn’t [doing] these offensive things as much because I enjoyed doing the other things probably more than just scoring goals. I’ve become that type of player, and I enjoy it.”
That’s why nobody on the Blackhawks frets if Hossa’s goal scoring is down. He does have two goals through eight playoff games, and his six assists are second on the team.
Defenseman Duncan Keith has seen Hossa up close as his teammate since 2009, but early in his career Keith was on the other side trying to contain Hossa.
“Since I’ve been his teammate, I don’t know if his game has changed,” Keith said. “I think he’s always been that big, strong guy that’s super fast and great at controlling the puck, guarding the puck. … I didn’t realize how good defensively he was.”
Given his presence on the ice, Hossa might seem like a natural to take on a leadership role in the dressing room. But he insists he’s a man of few words. His play speaks loudly enough for everyone.
“If I don’t score goals, it’s not a big deal,” Hossa said. “I try to help the team a different way.”