Three goals in 25 postseason games with the Blackhawks.
That's the cold numbers for Marian Hossa. The erstwhile goal machine --remember his 18 playoff goals in 43 games between the Red Wings and Penguins in 2008 and 2009? -- isn't responsible by himself for the Hawks' brink-of-elimination status, the official end of the Stanley Cup good feeling ever so close. But a score here, a key assist there, and maybe the Hawks are making this a series against the Canucks.
If Patrick Sharp is going down for the count, he'll go down proud. He's led the Hawks with nine shots on goal in Games 2 and 3 against the Canucks, finally breaking through Sunday night against Roberto Luongo. Hossa has been barely a factor with four shots total in the same pair of games, after six unsuccessful attempts in Game 1. I'll give the earnest Hossa a lot of credit if he's played a bit hobbled after missing two blocks of playing time in the regular season. Yet at some point in the near-future, Hossa has to start paying dividends on a megabucks deal that, combined with handsome paychecks for the other veteran core, give GM Stan Bowman little salary-cap room going into the near future.
Hossa's postseason falloff stands out also because he's ostensibly in his prime -- hopefully not just past it -- at 32. Patrick Kane's and Jonathan Toews' quiet series against the Canucks can still be excused. For all their accomplishments, Kane and Toews are still learning -- and often doing -- on the job. Savvy has to be melded with sheer physical ability. Kane has a few raw parts to his game. Toews perhaps expended so much energy in February and March -- remember the MVP talk? -- just to get the Hawks into the playoffs that he may be somewhat gassed by now. He'll never admit it. But you hope he'll also learn from the experience, and ration his effort more adeptly in the future. Or expect a little more help from third- and fourth-liners.
The problem with focusing on the stars' lack of scoring is the edge taken off checking and frustrating opponents' mainstays that was such a staple of the champs last spring. With Dave Bolland still out from the after-effects of a March 9 concussion, the famed checking line that included Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd is merely a fond memory. The salary-cap purge indeed proved a domino effect that enveloped the Toews-Kane-Hossa group in the end.
Hawks fans should hope for a proud final effort Tuesday night, if merely to go out of the United Center with a victory. Comebacks from 0-3 are as common as Halley's Comet visits. The Hawks' turn to pull off a miracle doesn't appear to be in the offing, not after near-miracle postseason comebacks from 0-3 by the Red Sox and Flyers across the spectrum of sports the past decade.
If Tuesday is indeed the final hockey game of the season in Chicago, enjoy the sight. It won't be sad farewells. The mainstays will be back, almost to a man, unless Bowman has an unbelievably creative trade in mind. Better that Bowman find a kid in Rockford who is the next rookie of the year and make it a bit less necessary for the Hawks core to do every last bit of heavy lifting.