|Now with Penguins, Hossa hopes to add to Ottawa playoff disappointments|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 09 April 2008 00:06|
Hossa, a five-time All-Star forward, has long been saddled with the reputation of being a reliable point producer during the season but one who disappears for long stretches during the postseason.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Hossa on Feb. 26, one of the first questions he fielded wasn't about playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but his spotty playoff record.
``I know my production wasn't the best, but that's behind me and I've got a new challenge now,'' Hossa said.
That latest new challenge begins Wednesday night against a familiar opponent as the Penguins, his new team, face the Senators, his former team, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The 29-year-old Hossa has averaged nearly 36 goals per season with Ottawa, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, but has only 13 goals in 55 playoff games. He didn't score a goal as Atlanta was swept in four games by the Rangers last year - a flashback to his four opening-round series losses with Ottawa during his first six NHL seasons.
``Obviously, I didn't perform as well point-wise,'' Hossa said. ``But there were a couple of years I think I had a pretty good playoffs, and we went a little further and we ended up in Game 7. If you go longer, obviously, the points will come but, unfortunately, I was on a team that always lost in the first round.''
Hossa took considerable heat up north for those first-round playoff losses to Buffalo (1999) and Toronto (2000, 2001, 2004).
``We always referred to him as 'Maid Marian' over that stretch of time,'' former NHL GM and coach Mike Milbury said. ``He's not produced, not been as competitive.''
Talk like that, Hossa said, is all part of playing in a country where hockey is such an important part of the culture.
``People can say whatever they want. I know what I have to do to be successful and I'm going to keep trying it,'' said Hossa, who is a minus-9 in seven playoff appearances. ``I know what it's like to play for a Canadian market team. You're under a big bubble.''
He will be in Pittsburgh, too.
The Penguins added Hossa specifically to play on Crosby's line, though the two have rarely been on the ice together since the trading deadline-day deal. Crosby was out with a bad ankle and Hossa had a knee injury, yet coach Michel Therrien liked how they played during their brief time together.
During a four-game stretch from March 27-April 2, Crosby had two goals and three assists and Hossa had one goal and two assists. In 12 games with Pittsburgh, Hossa has three goals and seven assists.
``You could see the chemistry they started to get,'' Therrien said. ``Marian Hossa's doing a lot of good things on the ice, he's really reliable defensively, and he's not going to cheat. I really like the combination of Crosby and Hossa, I really like it.''
The question, of course, is how long they'll be together if Hossa can't produce again in these playoffs.
Ottawa needed only five games to put away Pittsburgh last year, but Hossa doesn't see many similarities. The Penguins are deeper than they were then after adding Hossa and defenseman Hal Gill, and Crosby and Malkin no longer are playoff rookies.
``Every experience going to the playoffs, it's a big lesson. For me, I've learned a lot,'' Hossa said. ``Now we've got more experience. Everybody's a year older and everybody's a little more mature and they know what to expect. So it's good.''