Keeping old habits

CHICAGO -- There are no coincidences where Marian Hossa is concerned.

Four Stanley Cup finals appearances in the past six years with three different teams?

"Somebody said I was choosing good teams when I was a free agent," Hossa replied Tuesday when asked about the reason for such a stunning track record.

And that answer came after a good deal of hemming and hawing. But Hossa can't dodge the simple fact that as he goes, so does his team, and this Chicago Blackhawks team in particular.

The 34-year-old winger is tied with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane for the team lead in scoring this postseason with 14 points. More telling than his seven goals and seven assists is that he has scored in 11 of 17 playoff games and is a plus-8.

Among the seven goals were two game winners against the Los Angeles Kings in the conference finals -- in Games 1 and 4 -- and six that gave his team the lead. The other was a tying goal in a 2-1 overtime victory against Minnesota in Game 1 of the opening round.

Oh yes, and the Hawks are 6-0 this postseason when Hossa has scored.

"This is a great story," Hossa said, referring to this Blackhawks season. But of course, he could have been referring to himself.

He admitted Tuesday it crossed his mind that his career might be over after he was removed from the ice by stretcher following the vicious hit by Phoenix forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of the Hawks' 2012 opening-round playoff series last April.

"I thought I was right when I came here after the convention [in late July 2012] to work out," he said. "But as soon as I was skating and started doing more exercises on the ice, I realized that's not me yet. ...

"I was doing the bicycle so you could just sit there and you're just pedaling, right? At some point I was symptom-free, but as soon as I got on the ice, all of a sudden there was a bunch of guys skating beside me and the brain has to kind of like adjust to it. There are so many new things -- the puck coming your way, you have to shoot, you have to skate, you have to watch the players -- so many things going through your mind, and I knew I wasn't ready for it. So it worked for me it was a lockout, I could go back and take my time and when the season started, I was ready."

Signed to a 12-year, $62.8 million deal in July 2009 (he will have earned $7.9 million in each of the first seven years of the contract), Hossa helped the Hawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup victory with 15 points in 22 games that postseason.

But when he pulled on the Blackhawks sweater, it was for his fourth team in 18 months. Now 3½ years later, he is a well-established leader and core member of the team. And though they loved him then, they look up to him now.

"After all he's been through and everything he has accomplished, the motivation that he still has to be the best he can be and to win another Stanley Cup," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews when asked what he admires about Hossa.

"There's always a couple teammates you're especially happy for, to see them lift the Cup. For him to go to the Finals three years in a row, when we won in 2010 there was no doubt in my mind he was going to be the first guy I was going to hand it to, and again here he is, arguably playing better than he did the last time. There's no rest in his game, he just keeps getting better and he keeps doing more and more for our team. That's definitely something you can look up to."

In 14 years, Hossa ranks fifth among active players in postseason games played (146) and points (111). He is sixth in assists (68), seventh in goals (43) and eighth in game-winning goals (10). In all but four of the games in which he scored goals in the playoffs, his team won.

"It's impressive the career he has had so far, and I'm sure he's going to keep going some more years, too," said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. "And the veteran presence he gives to the rest of the guys on the team is huge. Just the way he prepares for a game and the way he plays during the game. He backchecks probably the hardest of all the forwards on the team, and he always does his part to help us win games, so he's a huge part of our success so far."

When asked what he has learned from Hossa, Bryan Bickell answered, "Everything.

"I sit beside him in the locker room, and the way he presents himself on and off the ice is first-class. He talks to me about my game, what needs to be worked on and the last couple games I've been playing with him, to have patience with the puck. He has probably the most patience in the league for protecting it and holding on to it and getting rid of it when it's needed."

Hossa mentioned his long-term security with the Blackhawks, and with the Bruins' Jaromir Jagr still going strong at 41, it is not inconceivable to picture Hossa still playing for a while.

"It looks like he's still going fine," said Hawks teammate Dave Bolland. "He took a few strides the last series and caught up with [Dustin] Brown. I don't think anything will change with that guy."

Even with four finals appearances in six years, Hossa promises it "never gets old."

"I always appreciate it when I make it to the finals," he said. "At this time of year to still be playing hockey, it's been great. I definitely appreciate it when I'm still healthy and can play at a high level. I was glad I could return and be myself."