CHICAGO — Marian Hossa raced up the ice and headed to the net. Fedor Tyutin jabbed at him with his stick, but it was too late. Hossa shook him off and flicked the puck over Semyon Varlamov’s glove.
It was vintage Hossa.
While the NHL playoffs raged into June, the 37-year-old Hossa found his legs again. The physical winger is off to a solid start for the Chicago Blackhawks, flashing the form that made him one of the league’s best two-way players for most of his distinguished career.
“So far, I feel pretty good, skating-wise, and also had lots of puck on my stick,” Hossa said. “So when you play with the puck you get more comfort level and you are making things happen.”
Like Thursday night, when Hossa played a key role in Chicago’s 4-0 win over Colorado. First, he got free for a breakaway and held off Tyutin on the way to his fourth goal of the season at 15:03 of the first.
Hossa scored again 55 seconds into the third , taking a stretch pass from defenceman Duncan Keith and shooting over Varlamov’s glove for his fourth goal in his last four games.
“He’s skating well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s never really looked like he’s slowing down at any time. The finish around the net was nice to see, two outstanding shots.”
Hossa, who signed a 12-year, $62.8 million contract in July 2009, helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. But the years of long playoff runs and Olympic play took a toll.
He had just 13 goals and 20 assists in 64 games last season, and Chicago was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“Definitely longer summer helps after such a long time,” Hossa said. “I think the body needed a little rest.”
His resurgence has helped Chicago to four straight wins and seven of nine overall, masking some issues with puck possession and turnovers. The Blackhawks face a difficult test this weekend when they take on Dallas in a home-and-home set.
Hossa has five goals and four assists in 10 games. He didn’t score his fifth goal last season until his 24th game.
“You know sometimes when the puck goes in early for you you’re more relaxed,” he said. “You don’t force things, and I think right now that’s what’s happening.”
Hossa also has found a home on Chicago’s second line, playing alongside centre Artem Anisimov and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin. Anisimov, Panarin and Patrick Kane formed one of the NHL’s most potent lines last season, but Kane is playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews in the top group at the moment as Quenneville searches for balance in his lineup.
Panarin set up Hossa’s first goal against the Avalanche.
“Playing with two really good players, you know, try to find an open area and those guys can find you,” Hossa said. “I think things are clicking, just need to keep working on it.”
Hossa’s first multi-goal game since Jan. 10, also against Colorado, ran his goal total to 504, passing Peter Bondra for the highest total for a Slovakian-born player. Hossa is 41st on the NHL’s career list, just three back of Hall of Fame centre Jean Beliveau.
“He’s got some offensive numbers that really are great to look at,” Quenneville said after Hossa scored his 500th goal, which occurred last month against Philadelphia. “The best part of his game is the consistency of being a pro, night in and night out, being responsible on both sides of the puck, plays hard every single game and night. It’s a good example for our young guys learning how to play the right way.”