Marian Hossa came into this 2016-17 NHL season just shy of a career milestone: he needed just one more goal to become the 44th player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal plateau. One more goal would add Hossa’s name to yet another list of immortals, cementing his place as one of the best to ever play the game of hockey and a future Hall of Famer.
Hossa scored that one goal on Tuesday night during the Blackhawks’ 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. After a few fortunate bounces, a backhander from the demi-god ended up behind Michal Neuvirth, and Hossa had made history. Here’s how it happened.
This play starts all the way back in the Blackhawks zone, as Brian Campbell leads a breakout for the Hawks power play unit. He finds Artem Anisimov along the far boards, and Anisimov quickly gains the zone. Hossa, who was trailing behind the puck, begins to hit a stride as Chicago enters the attacking zone.
As Anisimov gains the zone, he quickly tires to get the puck Richard Panik, who was moving slowly the neutral zone ahead of him at the start of the play. Panik held up at the offensive blue line, so Anisimov’s pass ends up being an attempted backwards, cross-ice pass. Because of the backwards trajectory, backchecking Phildelphia center Chris VandeVelde is able to disrupt the pass. However, he can’t get enough of the puck to break the play up, and the puck ends up deflecting off his stick and hitting Hossa almost directly in stride.
Hossa’s forward momentum and positioning when the puck hits his stick make it easy for him to get around Philadelphia’s Andrew MacDonald, who has to transition from skating backwards and quickly turn around to defend Hossa. It doesn’t work, and Hossa is able to establish his position in front of MacDonald as they approach the Philadelphia net.
Despite his unfavorable positioning, MacDonald actually does a nice job defending Hossa on this play. He gets his stick in Hossa’s shooting/passing lane. But Hossa, one of the strongest players in the game on the puck, refuses to panic. Instead, in what is easily my favorite part of this play, he brilliantly lifts MacDonald’s stick out of his lane before quickly shuffling the puck toward the net. It looks like he’s attempting to get the puck back to Anisimov, who was right near the crease and would’ve had a wide open net, but the puck ends up directing under the bottom of Neuvirth’s pad and into the net for Hossa’s 500th career score.
This goal would put the Blackhawks up 4-0 in the middle of the second period, giving them what looked like a safe lead. They ended up blowing that lead in the final minutes of the second period and early minutes of the third period, allowing Philadelphia to tie the game at 4-4. The Hawks responded quickly, though, and two goals from Anisimov and one from Artemi Panarin in the third period gave the Hawks the 7-4 win.
But even with all of that offense for the Blackhawks, the focus for this game remained on Hossa, who added another terrific milestone to his historic career. It was his 161st regular season goal as a Blackhawk, and first of this season. After a rather disappointing 2015-16 campaign in which he posted just 33 points in 66 games, Hossa is already off to a nie start this year, as this goal gave him his fourth point in as many games. Hopefully this is just the start to a very strong season from the demi-god.
And oh, yeah... Congratulations Hoss!
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. Follow him on Twitter at @_adamhess.