Sharp, Hossa Tuned Up for Big Season
Hawks fans need no reminders that Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are two of the most valuable skaters in the NHL, but the duo wants remind them anyway.
The makings for a big season are already underway after just two games, despite a crushing collapse Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning that handed the Stanley Cup Champs their first loss of the season. That second line looked great in both contests even though neither marked the scorecard with anything more than a handful of shots. It’s the work ethic that looks promising in this line.
Hossa regularly muscles his way to the puck and can push an opponent right off his skates at times before regaining possession (admittedly, possession that he likely lost in the first place – but I digress). Perhaps he gets frustrated that he’s messed up and harnesses that to elevate his play – whatever works is fine with me so long as it leads to production. And Hossa is fast. Once he gets momentum going, there is little that can stop him. Which is why he works so well on the second line with Patrick Sharp.
The 31-year-old winger has Sharp (zing!) eyes that can rival those of Patrick Kane, who can practically see dead people. Lanes suddenly open up when Sharp is on the ice and Hossa is the man that can sneak through and receive a crisp pass for a golden opportunity. Sharp can be lethal with open space, as we saw most recently in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so opponents would be wise to take that away. Good thing Kane, Toews and Bickell provide a bit of distraction for that. It allows Sharp and Hossa to fly a little bit under the radar until they force a team to pay attention to them – and then the top lines can go to work. And at the moment, even the third and fourth lines are making an impact. Great news for Chicago, horrible news for anyone else.
We all know Sharp and Hossa are great players. They are two veteran wingers that finally have a veteran center between them in Michal Handzus so they know what it takes to play in the NHL. That is, so long as they stay injury-free.
At 34 years old, Marian Hossa seems like an injury magnet. He has a plaguing knack for sitting out a game or two (or longer) with a nondescript injury update from Q or the press. He had sat out for a bit of the preseason and elected not to get back surgery during the offseason. It was a question of whether or not he would be ready to start last season’s lockout due to the 2011 – 2012 postseason cheap shot from Raffi Torres, despite the lockout pushing back opening night about three months.
Patrick Sharp missed a large portion of the shortened season after the lockout as well, but returned to form quickly and loudly becoming the top goal scorer of the postseason (10). With the exception of last season, Sharp usually plays upwards of 70 games and can be relied on day-in-and-day-out. As a result, he consistently hovers around the 30-goal marker in the regular season. His injury status is not as up-and-down as Hossa’s, but keeping him healthy should be Mike Gapski’s priority on the second line.
If this veteran second line can stay healthy (looking at you, Handzus) then they should have a productive season. If ‘Zus can feed the speed to his wingers successfully, we can see 30 goal seasons from both Sharp and Hossa. Let’s keep them healthy and, for cripe’s sake, figure out how to make these guys cash in on the power play!