What separates Marian Hossa from a typical star player is what he does without the puck — his defensive awareness, his sneaky stick, his relentless backchecking and his penalty-killing. Defense and effort never slump, so Hossa gets a well-deserved pass most nights, regardless of what he does on the scoresheet.
But this is still a 1,000-point player, and an eight-time 30-goal scorer. Hossa still needs to produce.
And up until this past week, Hossa wasn’t producing much at all. Through his first 13 games, he had just two goals and three assists and he hasn’t scored in any of the Hawks’ eight games this month. But after a two-assist night in Sunday’s rout of Dallas — a game in which everybody on the Blackhawks seemed to get well offensively — he now has five assists in his last five games.
It’s clear progress, but considering Hossa is coming off a 30-goal season — the most productive of his first five seasons in Chicago — it’s still not enough.
“I don’t remember a slower start than this in my career,” Hossa said. “Of course, it bothers me, but I try to stay positive. Obviously there are lots of games [where] I feel really good. Points or goals don’t come as I would like. So I just try to work hard and stay positive.”
It even got to the point where Hawks coach Joel Quenneville put Hossa on what was essentially a checking line for three games, lining up with Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger on the third unit. Of course, that’s one of the reasons Quenneville values Hossa so much — he can put the 35-year-old in nearly any situation.
“I’m never worried about him,” Quenneville said. “He brings a lot to the table. Whether he’s scoring or not, he does things the right way.”
On Sunday, Hossa was reunited with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews — the same top line that powered the Hawks to the Presidents’ Trophy in 2013 — and the trio combined for a pair of third-period goals. It was the most visible Hossa had been on offense in weeks, with a season-high seven shots on goal to go along with his typical two hits and two takeaways on the defensive end.
Hossa said he wouldn’t press too hard to snap out of his drought. In his 17th season, he knows better. Right now, the pucks simply aren’t going in; he has a shooting percentage of 3.5 right now, far below his career mark of 12.7. A positive regression to the mean is almost inevitable.
“I don’t want to try to work too much,” he said. “I know what to do and how to play the game. When you start a season with more goals, everything loosens up and you feel more relief and you play an easier game. Obviously, when things aren’t going your way, you start looking for some things, [and] grab your stick a little bit tighter.”
He knows that the points will come. And he knows as long as he’s backchecking and pick-pocketing and contributing to the league’s top-ranked penalty-killing unit, then he’s still doing his job.
“We expect his production to start clicking,” Quenneville said. “He’s always got a purpose to his game.”
Contributing: Brian Sandalow