Quick Olympic exits are always unfortunate and can be quite discouraging for players. However, for fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, Team Slovakia’s disappointment should be the team’s gains. That is in large part due to the quick exits of veteran players Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus, who will have experiences the perfect blend of rest and game conditioning during this Olympic tournament.
Hossa, who has scored 50 points in 55 regular season games for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, is a team leader and vital part of the Blackhawks’ dominant top line. In order to keep the 35 year old fresh, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been giving Hossa plenty of days off from practice. The results speak for themselves, as Hossa has performed exceptionally despite not practicing 100 percent of the time.
In Slovakia’s loss to the Czech Republic, Hossa scored two goals on five shots, for arguably his best game of the tournament. However, it was simply too little too late for a Slovakian team that was without a doubt the biggest disappointment of the tournament.
Assisting on both of Hossa’s goals was Handzus, who in one game equaled 29 percent of his NHL assists from this season. When asked about his early exit from Olympic play, Handzus told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune that “It’s disappointing, but now we have a couple of days to regroup and come back to the Blackhawks.”
What exactly Handzus will be returning to, however, is unclear. The Blackhawks are trying various combinations of centers and wings, including Brandon Pirri and Andrew Shaw. Handzus has still been incredibly consistent, but was without a doubt rather lethargic as the season wore on. For him, there are certainly the most questions regarding his play. His Olympic trip certainly didn’t answer any of them resoundingly, but there is reason for optimism that the open-ice Olympic experience will awaken Handzus’ offensive game.
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