Marian Hossa’s been down this playoff road a few times now.
The Chicago Blackhawks right wing has found plenty of postseason success in recent years, with 13 playoff appearances, four Stanley Cup Final appearances and two Stanley Cups. It can be exhausting physically. Still, the potential rewards make it worth the rigors.
The much-motivated Hossa is there again this season, as he enters the playoffs strong, healthy and on a productive roll. On Saturday night Hossa scored his 30th goal, giving him eight NHL seasons with 30 or more. Now it’s that time of year when the stakes are higher, the competition is tougher and the rewards are bigger. And Hossa’s ready for it.
“The preparation before the game, the atmosphere, the buzz in the city, everything gets you going,” Hossa said. “If you win one or two (Cups), the motivation is still there.”
When Hossa’s been healthy, he’s been tremendous. That health, and play, benefited the Blackhawks again greatly this season.
“He’s a huge player on our team in every capacity,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “What he brings, the quality minutes he plays, he plays the right way and enhances our special teams and 5-on-5 game. He’s a great pro. The experience and leadership he brings, it’s a great learning message for young guys as well. We’re happy to have him.”
That was especially true in the regular season’s waning weeks. With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane missing down the stretch, all healthy Blackhawks had to do a little more. Hossa was as much a part of that extra work as anyone, and he, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw made a solid top-line combination in the wake of the injuries.
“He’s a force out there,” Sharp said. “You can give him a bad pass or a bouncing puck or something, he’s going to fend off guys and keep the play alive. With Shaw going to the net and me out there, we just try to let him do his thing and get open for him.”
Given his own injury history, Hossa always has to be careful. If it means more prep time or a little tweak in the exercise regimen, so be it. Prior to the Olympic break, Hossa took plenty of skates and practices off to keep energy levels up for games. It proved a smart move. Don’t be surprised if Hossa uses that same precaution through the postseason.
Hossa’s logged plenty of playoff games, especially over the past few seasons. He’s gotten two Cups out of it. No, it’s not easy. But considering you never know when the ride will end, and what can be won on every trek, it never gets old.
“You never know,” Hossa said. “So you just try to bring your best and play your game.”