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Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks struggle without Marian Hossa

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

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BOSTON -- Marian Hossa is one of the NHL's best players and has been for quite some time, even if he doesn't always get the recognition he deserves for it.

When Hossa is in the lineup and on the ice his impact is noticeable in every area, whether it's his smooth playmaking ability and goal-scoring touch, or his relentless backchecking ability and defensive awareness.

He's the total package.

You also notice when he's not on the ice, as was the case for the Chicago Blackhawks during their 2-0 loss in Game 3 on Monday.

Nobody knows what exactly happened to Hossa, but the Blackhawks are simply calling it an "upper body injury," which in playoff speak could mean anything from a shoulder injury to a toe injury or anything in between.

"Yeah, that's something that I'm sure we're not supposed to talk about," Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg predictably said when asked about what happened. "But we know what happened and hopefully he can be ready to go next game."

If Game 3 was any indication, they had better hope he's ready.

Whatever it was that happened, the Chicago players seemed to know his absence was a possibility. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews even said it was something they had prepared for all day.

"Sometimes you're missing one of your best players and you've got to find a way to play without him," Toews said. "We always say, it's an opportunity for other guys to step up, and the guys that got more ice tme tonight played well. We've just got a find a way to win."

They most certainly didn't do that on Monday.

Even though they may have tried to prepare for Hossa's absence they looked completely lost without him from the opening faceoff. A lot of that of was because it's an obvious drop in talent going from Hossa, one of the best two-way forwards in the league, to Ben Smith, a player that had appeared in just one game for the Blackhawks this season. And a player that had spent the entire postseason to this point skating with Chicago's Black Aces, the minor league call-ups that every team has around for the playoff experience but are never expected to play in a game.

"Well, the Black Aces are always around here and I was just told that I had to warm up, that I was in," Smith said. "So I just kind of scrambled to get reay and get warm. That's kind of been the whole thing this seven, eight weeks with the Black Aces. They tell us to stay ready. You never know when your opportunity is going to come, and it just happened tonight."

If Hossa's injury turns out to be one that's going to keep him out of the lineup beyond Game 3, it's going to be a costly one for the Blackhawks. Smith played hard and did the best he could, but he only gave them 10 minutes of ice time and like most of his teammates was unable to make an impact. The Blackhawks were outshot with him on the ice and even gave up the only even-strength goal.

For most of the night, the Blackhawks' high-powered offense was completely shut down by the Bruins stingy defense. The Blackhawks were missing the net with regularity, didn't create any quality chances for themselves, and were just as bad on the power play as they've been throughout the entire series.

And oh, that power play.

Not only are the Blackhawks still 0-for-the-series on the man advantage, they're still not able to generate shots on goal. They entered Game 3 with just four shots in the series. During Game 3, Boston's penalty kill seemed to create more prime scoring opportunities than Chicago did. That's not how it's supposed to work. The even-strength play wasn't any better as every time Chicago seemed to have even a little something going, the Bruins would quickly respond with an even better chance at the other end.

"I thought we pushed the pace for a lot of it," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "And they would just come down with some speed and all of a sudden get a scoring chance."

When asked if it's going to be tough on them mentally to lose Hossa, Keith simply responded "No, we're not going to worry about that. If he can't go, he can't go."

And if he can't go, it might be worth asking if the Blackhawks are going to be capable of winning three out of the next four games without him.

Right now the Blackhawks' offense is meeting the same fate the Rangers and Penguins met before them. They're struggling to sustain any sort of offensive pressure, they can't get near the crease, and they're failing to challenge Tuukka Rask with any sort of in-close shot.

With Hossa it's been a challenge.

Without him it seems like it's going to be near impossible.

 
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