Who would have thought that, after three games, the two best players on the ice would have both come from the same European country of Slovakia?
While coming away with their first win of the 2010-11 NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks have found a duo worth leaning on through a tough start. Many were led to believe that it was the Blackhawks' defense that would be what keeps them in games, and the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that would get them the win.
Hands down, over the first three games, it has been the hustle and heart of Marian Hossa and fellow countryman, Tomas Kopecky. The two have been paired every game, with only the center-man switching. Deservedly so, seeing as the two account for three goals and five assists.
A team led by two of the most well-known athletes (Toews and Kane) has been searching for resurrection as the Blackhawks dropped their first two games. An absence of defensive consistency and lack of urgency did in the Blackhawks both games.
The Blackhawks were clearly in need of a leader entering Monday's game in Buffalo that would throw the team on their back and carry them to a victory. Hossa did just that by scoring twice and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Some have made the arguments that Kopecky just doesn't cut it when paired with Hossa, but why not? It seems as if there is a unique camaraderie between the two. Both seem to inspire another to play harder and faster.
While one can criticize the lack of developed talent Kopecky possess, one can't be blind to the natural hard work and commitment to a team. A team made up of that kind of ethic will be in every game any night.
With the Nashville Predators on their way to Chicago tomorrow, the Blackhawks can only hope that the passion displayed in the two Slovakian natives rubs off on other locker room teammates. The Predators will bring their typical defensive tempo, which always seems to be a thorn in Joel Quenneville coaching scheme.
The matchup is tailor-made for the style and grit of Hossa and Kopecky. The first touch of any puck could always be the last before it dents the twine. Be it diving to clear a zone, or tipping in a rebound, expect one or the other to be there to make the play at the United Center on Wednesday night.
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