The 2011 Stanley Cup champions have the Chicago Blackhawks on their heels going into a crucial Game 4. To make matters worse, the Western Conference champs may be without one of their superstar forwards, again. Marian Hossa was a late scratch from Chicago’s lineup minutes before the puck dropped in Game 3. Hossa’s presence was sorely missed as the Blackhawks got their rear ends handed to them on a silver platter.
Hossa is one of the most important players on Chicago’s roster. He contributes in all aspects of the game and his experience is invaluable for a team with five players under the age of 25. The five time All-Star has been to four Stanley Cup Finals in the last six seasons. He’s one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL; he led the Blackhawks with 77 points last season while being named to the 2013 Selke Award watch list, which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL.
“He’s a big loss for our team,” Chicago assistant captain Duncan Keith said after Game 3. “I don’t know what his status is, so it’s tough to comment.”
A rumor surfaced last night saying Hossa was struck by a puck during pregame warm-ups, but those reports proved to be false. Chicago’s star forward is suffering from an apparent upper body injury that may have occurred after Hossa took a huge hit in Game 2. The decision to sit Hossa was a “game-time decision after warm-ups.”
The 34 year-old was replaced by young winger Ben Smith. Smith doesn’t have a whole lot of NHL experience. He’s played in 20 regular season games and 8 playoff games during his brief professional career. If memory serves you well, you’ll remember Smith’s dramatic overtime goal against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the first round series in the 2011 playoffs. Smith didn’t provide a major offensive boost in Game 3, but he came ready to play, which is all you can ask of a player in his situation.
“I was told after warm-ups I was in,” Smith said during his postgame interview. “It was kind of a scramble to get ready and get warm. You never know when our opportunity is going to come, it happened tonight.”
“It’s difficult for the team not to have him in the lineup, but at the same time it’s a full team,” Smith said.
Chicago wasn’t going to make excuses but Hossa’s absence was palpable on the Blackhawks special teams units. The power play faltered – yet again – as the man advantage wasn’t much of an advantage after all. The Blackhawks were 0 for 5 on the power play last night and are a dreadful 1 out of their last 29. The Bruins generated more scoring chances on the penalty kill – 3 – than Chicago’s power play units – 1. The President Trophy winners seem to have no solution to their problems with the man advantage. Although, give credit where credit is due. Boston hasn’t allowed many teams to sustain any sort of power play pressure as they’ve killed off 26 straight penalties.
Speaking of penalties, Chicago’s penalty kill didn’t perform up to their lofty standards in last night’s contest. The Blackhawks committed some bone-headed penalties and it cost them. Boston was 1 of 4 on the power play, and their lone goal was the result of a brief 2-man advantage. The Bruins didn’t score while playing 5 on 3 but they kept possession deep in Chicago’s zone, allowing them to generate a surge of scoring chances. Patrice Bergeron made the most of Boston’s power play opportunity when his wrist shot beat Corey Crawford, putting his team ahead by two goals.
Boston didn’t relinquish their two goal lead and left the TD Garden with their seventh straight playoff win on home ice. But there is hope for the Blackhawks. Quenneville told the press moments ago that Hossa is “likely to play” in Game 4. Did you hear that? The entire city of Chicago just let out a giant sigh of relief. Hossa’s supposed return should help an offense that’s failed to score a goal over their last six periods of action.
Quenneville’s team remains confident despite trailing the Stanley Cup Finals 2-1. It’s not time to count them out, the Blackhawks have been down this path before. They’ve won must win games in hostile arenas. Tomorrow night’s Game 4 is a must win.