2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3: Yes, Hossa is valuable to Hawks

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If the Chicago Blackhawks had lost the first two games of this
series, or even split them, then we might be talking about how Marian
Hossa is undoubtedly cursed.

This is his third straight Stanley Cup finals, and he’s the first
player to appear in three straight series with three different teams. He
was on the losing end in his two previous trips to the Cup finals, and
some thought that the Blackhawks adding Hossa was the kiss of death.

Hossa was almost magical for the Penguins in 2008, acquired at the
trade deadline to provide offensive firepower and he responded with 12
goals and 26 points in just 20 games, as the Penguins eventually lost to
the Red Wings. Last season, he made the switch over to Detroit, and
struggled with his production, scoring just 6 goals in 23 games as the
the Wings lost to his former team.

Hossa started the postseason this year in similar fashion, being
nearly invisible on the scoreboard as his team rolled through the first
three rounds of the playoffs. Thankfully, the rest of his team was
scoring and we were left to wonder if perhaps Hossa was pressing too
much as he fought to finally, finally hoist the Cup at the end of the
postseason.

Coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t worried about his
struggles in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

“We
really like the way he has progressed in the Playoffs as well. I’m
sure he’s excited about the third chance here this year. We really like
his contribution in the first two games. I think that line has been
very effective in a lot of ways.”

In the first two games of the Cup finals, Hossa has awakened. He’s
back to looking like the dominant player he can be and it’s none too
soon; with the top line of the Blackhawks struggling mightily, Hossa was
needed more than ever to step up his game. He has a goal and two
assists in the two games against the Flyers — not earth shattering
numbers but his efforts in other areas of the game that’s made the
difference.

Patrick Sharp is certainly glad he’s on the team this season, as he’s
been the difference maker they needed him to be:

“He’s been a great addition to the team,” Sharp said this afternoon.
“If you ask all 30 teams in the league if they want [Hossa] there they’d
take him gladly. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”

Sharp says that Hossa has made a difference for the Blackhawks, even
if he’s not putting up a ton of goals.

“He brings so much more to the club than just his goalscoring.
Everyone knows him because he scores 40 goals a year, but he’s one of
the best two-way wingers in the league. He’s a great locker room guy and
the fact that he’s been to three Cup finals is a great thing.”

Hossa looked the best he’s looked all postseason on Monday night in
Game 3, as he was a force along the boards and in front of Michael
Leighton. His determination was awarded with the first goal of the game,
as he beat several Flyers players to a rebound.

Despite not putting up big numbers, he’s been incredibly sound
defensively and has been a perfect example for the rest of the team on
how to still make a difference even if you’re shots aren’t hitting the
back of the net. He’s a plus-11 through 18 games, showing that he hasn’t
become overly frustrated despite not scoring at his usual pace.

Quenneville is convinced that Hossa is much, much more to his team
than just a goal scorer, and he allows the coaches flexibility with
their lines and matchups.

“For sure as a coach you have a lot more options with him on the
ice,” the Blackhawks coach said. “I think defensively he really provides
a lot of puck possession and defensive responsibility. Offensively if
he’s got the puck, he can make plays. That line has been a big factor,
and he’s a big part of it. “

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.

‘I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,’ Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets lucky with draft lottery

Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of Winnipeg Jets, speaks to members of the media after winning the second selection of the NHL hockey draft lottery in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
The Canadian Press via AP
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The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.

After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”

It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.

The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).

Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’