I wanted to find the definition of mystery, so I used the spotlight feature on my MacBook and typed in, "mystery." It brought me to the New Oxford American Dictionary, which defines mystery as, "something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain."
After reading the definition, I thought it was the perfect word to describe Marian Hossa's results the past two postseasons.
Think about it.
It's difficult to explain how a team with Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, and Marian Hossa would lose to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
Then, it became impossible.
Impossible to understand how the same Red Wings team, minus Dallas Drake and Dominik Hasek, but adding Ty Conklin and Marian Hossa could lose to the Penguins who only added Bill Guerin in seven games.
After the loss in 2009, Hossa's name became attached with a word that has been related to the likes of Bobby Lane and Babe Ruth.
Hossa joined the two athletes in having a curse named after him because each team he has been on where they have made a Stanley Cup Final, they have lost. Had the Ottawa Senators not traded Hossa for Dany Heatley, he would have also lost in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals to the Anaheim Ducks.
"It's a great feeling coming to the finals again, definitely," Hossa had said after Chicago finished off the San Jose Sharks. He was quick to acknowledge his past woes in the Finals saying, "But this time I want to finish better, and that's my goal."
Hossa's previous Finals appearance was not stellar in comparison to the 2008 Finals. Last year, Hossa only had three points in seven games. The offense that Detroit was looking for out of him, and saw from him in the regular season (40 goals and 31 assists) was missed.
And if anything frustrates Hossa, it's the talk of the Hossa Curse. "It's tough," Hossa said about the feeling of losing in the Stanley Cup Finals and the Hossa Curse. "Somebody has to lose, and somebody has to win. You always try to be the guy on the victory side... not just you, but the whole team."
If Hossa has gained anything out of the past two years, it would have to be an experience that will be invaluable for the young Blackhawk players such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Fortunately Hossa has those two young guns to fall back on for scoring, as well as Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrick Sharp, a much deeper and more talented arsenal of players to be surrounded with than what he was with in Pittsburgh and Detroit in terms of offense.
However that does not allow Hossa to just lay back and let his teammates do the work. Chicago is going to have their work cut for them because they are facing a team that is just glad to be where they are, because the way they made it to the Finals, you would have thought it was a script made for Hollywood.
The Philadelphia Flyers had to win in a shootout to just get into the playoffs. Then they had to face the number two seed New Jersey Devils and hope they see the next round. They beat New Jersey in convincing fashion, and then were faced with an improbable task: come back from 3-0 in the series and win game seven.
They beat the Boston Bruins in game seven after going down 0-3 in the game itself, making a miraculous third period rally out of nothing and wiping Boston out of the playoffs.
Their next opponents would be the Montreal Canadiens who disposed of the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and number one seed Washington Capitals. Their goaltender, Jaroslav Halak was being considered by many as this year's Conn Smythe winner.
He shut down the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, three of the best players in the NHL and beat them in game sevens at the Verizon Center and the Mellon Arena.
Then Philadelphia solved the problem, beating Halak in five games to eliminate Montreal and clinch a Stanley Cup berth for the first time since 1997, capping one of the most memorable runs in recent Stanley Cup playoff history.
So the team Hossa will face is not a Pittsburgh Penguins or Detroit Red Wings team where they are expected to appear in the Finals. This is a Philadelphia Flyers team that has fed off the momentum of each win.
And keep in mind, the last defensively built team (which Philadelphia is) that Chicago faced was the Nashville Predators, and they took the Hawks to six games. The Flyers are a better defensive team with Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, and Ryan Parent on the blueline.
These defensemen are not pushovers.
They will make it harder for Byfuglien to set up in front of Michael Leighton, make sure that there are no easy shots given, and will sacrifice their bodies to protect the lead. That makes it all the more reason for Hossa to step up and help his teammates out.
There can be something to worry about if you haven't looked at Hossa's stats over the course of the playoffs. Known as a talented goal scorer, Hossa has only put the puck in the back of the net twice in sixteen games.
Everywhere else though, Hossa has excelled. He's played solid defense, killed powerplays, created turnovers, and appeared on odd-man rushes into the offensive zone.
It's Hossa's duty to help out as much as he can. He knows what his role is, which is to be a goal scorer, but he should not have to pressure himself. Unfortunately it seems like he's already applied some of the pressure on him.
"I'll do anything I can to try and put the puck in the net," Hossa said. "I'm getting close chances but for whatever reason the puck doesn't want to jump in." The best solution is to keep doing what he is doing. It's helped Chicago vastly, and the pucks will eventually find their way to the net for Marian.
Hossa is also going to be responsible as a leader. He's one of the few Blackhawk players with Stanley Cup experience and that goes a long way in helping young teammates who haven't been to the Finals.
If there's a word other than mystery that can describe Hossa, it's the word hungry. That's why he went to Chicago. He said the young Hawks were hungry and wanted the Cup. The franchise has gone through a league high 48 seasons without a Stanley Cup. Hossa didn't sign this 12-year deal because he felt that the Hawks had the best chance to win.
He signed it so he could end his Stanley Cup misery with a team and a city who has suffered the same misery long before he was even born.
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