NHL Playoffs: Hossa defends his playoff statistics

Detractors talk about statistics. Penguins winger Marian Hossa wants to talk about time.

"We've got a great team, so, hopefully, we go far. And, if we go far, the numbers are better," said Hossa, who along with the rest of the team opens the postseason against Ottawa tomorrow night at Mellon Arena.

Hossa was the biggest name who changed teams at the Feb. 26 deadline. While his production of nearly a point a game in the NHL and the fact that he's in his prime at 28 made him a key addition when the Penguins acquired him and winger Pascal Dupuis for forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a draft pick, there was a caveat.

In the minds of some, his performance in the playoffs has been suspect.

  • NHL playoffs: Ottawa Senators vs. Penguins in Game 1 of the first round, 7:10 p.m.
  • Where: Mellon Arena.
  • TV: FSN Pittsburgh.

Although Hossa has 299 goals and 648 points over 701 games with a plus-minus rating of plus-85 in the regular season, that drops to 13 goals and 35 points in 55 playoff games with a minus-9 in seven postseason runs.

Some, though, weren't much of a run, and that ought to be taken into account, Hossa said.

Three times, he has been on teams that were swept in four games in the first round. He had one goal, three assists in those 12 games. A year ago, when the Thrashers were scalded by the New York Rangers by a combined score of 17-6, Hossa had one assist and was minus-6 in the four games.

"The team didn't play well. I didn't play well. I know that," Hossa said. "Of course, in four games you're not going to have huge numbers. If you look at that team, nobody was great [last] year.

"When we lose in the first round, obviously the numbers aren't high. I'm looking for a long run with Pittsburgh and, hopefully, the numbers are going to be there."

Hossa's first six playoff springs were with Ottawa. The first three, starting in 1998-99, were all first-round losses. He had a combined one goal, three assists in 14 games.

Then things got better before he was traded to Atlanta.

When the Senators lasted 12 games in 2001-02, beating Philadelphia before losing to Toronto, Hossa had four goals, 10 points. The next season, Ottawa advanced to the Eastern Conference final, and Hossa had five goals, 16 points in 18 games.

"In Ottawa, when we went pretty far, my numbers weren't too bad," Hossa said. "The goals could be higher, but it was close to a point a game."

In a first-round series loss against Toronto in 2003-04 that stretched to seven games, Hossa had three goals and an assist.

The Penguins pursued Hossa to play alongside center and captain Sidney Crosby. Hossa has three goals, 10 points in 12 games since the trade for season totals of 29 goals, 64 points.

Because of injuries, Hossa and Crosby have barely played and practiced together, but Crosby doesn't need more time to counter those who might have low expectations of Hossa for the postseason -- although he understands that things can look skewed by a quick exit.

"It's always easy when your team doesn't do well to have people say that," Crosby said. "Unfortunately, that's the way it goes. That's part of being an athlete. That's something you have to deal with. It's a team sport. It's not tennis. It's not golf. When your team doesn't have success, sometimes you point fingers at people.

"Some people said that about him, but, if you look at the way he plays, you look at his character, there's no reason he shouldn't be successful in the playoffs. Hopefully, with us, we can help that."

Especially since opponents won't be zeroing in just on Hossa, or even just on Hossa's line with Crosby and Max Talbot.

There's also leading scorer Evgeni Malkin and his linemates, wingers Ryan Malone and Petr Sykora, to consider.

"When you've got star players, like [Crosby] and [Malkin], other teams are so tight on them, the scoring has to spread," Hossa said.

Regardless of how long the Penguins last in the playoffs or what Hossa's point total is, he's not going to be playing to change anyone's mind about him.

"I know my numbers are not the same as in the regular season," Hossa said. "Everybody compares those numbers, and they're below, so people are pointing that out. That's fine. They can do whatever they want.

"I will be doing exactly the same thing I was doing, just play my game, have some fun and work hard. I am here to play."

Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721. First Published April 8, 2008 4:00 AM


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