Friday, January 27, 2012
Hossa, Hartnell flying under the radar
By Scott Burnside
If it’s possible for a guy to be in the thick of the NHL’s scoring race and be under the radar, Marian Hossa is that guy.
Never mind a scoring title; maybe it’s time Hossa should be mentioned in the Hart trophy discussion, as he has made use of his first long summer in a long time to return to elite form.
Hossa is tied for third place in NHL scoring with 53 points in 49 games and is tied for seventh in the league with a plus-24.
“This is the Marian Hossa that everyone knows; he’s a dominant player,” Chicago GM Stan Bowman told ESPN.com on Friday. “He is an unassuming guy but he’s got like a quiet intensity about him.”
While most of the two-way hockey accolades in Chicago go to captain Jonathan Toews -- and with good reason -- Hossa’s value to the team is significant. He kills penalties and works the power play, and when there is a player who needs a little pick-me-up, he generally ends up playing with Hossa for a time.
“He’s like the cure-all,” Bowman said.
The Hawks' GM has a clear idea of what has been the catalyst to Hossa’s banner season, and it’s something called rest.
Between 2008 and 2010 when he won a Cup with Chicago, Hossa played an incredible 65 postseason games. Throw in the 2010 Olympics, and you had a guy who, in Bowman’s words, was burned out.
Last spring, however, the Hawks were dispatched in seven games in the first round by Vancouver, and after the world championships, Hossa told Bowman that he needed this chance to recharge.
“He fortunately had a long summer so he could let his body recover,” Bowman said.
Hossa broke into the NHL as an Ottawa Senator, so he’s enjoying the All-Star weekend, and he’s enjoying his newfound energy and production.
“I definitely believe that has something to do with rest, longer summer and also my summer program for getting in the best shape I can get," Hossa said. "I think overall when I look at it, I feel like [I] turned off from hockey for a certain period of time and after I really started working hard on my strength in the gym and I think [it] definitely helped because I feel really good right now, I feel healthy.
“Overall it feels much better than years before.”
Hartnell pleased to be among starsFor every guy like Alex Ovechkin who ducks the All-Star Game, there’s a guy like Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell whose inclusion means the world.
The rough and tumble Hartnell enjoyed his finest offensive season back in 2008-09 when he registered 30 goals and 30 assists in 82 games.
But this season, playing for the most part with Jaromir Jagr and fellow All-Star Claude Giroux, Hartnell has 25 goals and 44 points in just 48 games. And he is tied for the league lead with 13 power-play goals.
And yes, he’s pleased as punch to be here in Ottawa.
“It’s rewarding I think to get the nod to come here and be recognized for a good start,” Hartnell said.
“It was a surprise to get the phone call, and it’s just been an exciting first half of the year and looking forward to the second half and having a good playoff run.”
Maybe Hartnell always knew he had it in him or maybe this has been something of an awakening, but he knows it hasn’t happened by magic.
“I think playing with Jagr and Giroux obviously has helped that tremendously," Hartnell said. "The biggest thing is I don’t take it for granted every day that I’m with them in the lineup. I’ve worked harder off the ice than I ever have before. You see Jaromir Jagr and the career he had and skating after practice with the heavy stick and all that kind of stuff, and you think, wow, this guy’s got enough God-given talent to be fine not to work hard, so if you look at that and try and take that and use it for myself, and things went better.”
Both Giroux and Jagr talked to Hartnell about conditioning before the season, and Hartnell has worked hard to make sure he can keep up.
“I’m playing 20 minutes a night every night, where the first five, six games I was playing 10 minutes and I didn’t feel comfortable with myself on the ice and I really worked hard to get back to how I felt great on the ice," Hartnell said. "These guys are great before the game, after shifts, after the first period, even though we had a good period or whatever and the goals weren’t there or whatever; it’s like keep going, play the same way, it’s going to come. They just want to win so bad, they want to score goals, they want to get points -- just to have that 'We’re going to take over this game' mentality that Claude and Jags have, it’s contagious.”