It was the most obvious subplot coming in to the Stanley Cup final rematch between the Penguins and Red Wings.
"The Red Wings have a great team," said Marian Hossa last summer after the former Penguin spurned a long-term Pittsburgh contract offer to ultimately sign with Detroit. "I know I could get more money somewhere else, but the thing I was looking for was the best chance for myself to win the Stanley Cup and I think Detroit is the destination."
And with that opportunity now at hand and his former team standing in the way of Hossa earning his first championship ring, the winger has been virtually invisible with the stakes at their highest. Hossa has only three assists in six games in the final and has been held without a goal by his former teammates. In Detroit's three road losses at Mellon Arena, Hossa was minus-1, and was held off the scoresheet altogether.
"(There's) less space. Sometimes you have to battle through it," said Hossa. "It's a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Sometimes it's a little bit of luck. (If) you score in the first couple of games you feel good and if you don't, well, maybe you try to press a little bit."
After scoring a team-leading 40 goals in the regular season, Hossa's production has dropped off significantly in the playoffs. He has scored just six goals in 22 games, despite matching his season average of over 18 minutes of ice time per game.
"I think I have had some good games - I know I haven't scored but I don't care right now," said Hossa.
Part of the reason for Hossa's dropoff can be traced to the seven-game playoff absence of Hossa's regular season linemate, Pavel Datsyuk. With Datsyuk sidelined by injury, Hossa was matched on a line with Valtteri Filppula and either Tomas Holmstrom or Johan Franzen. When Datsyuk returned in Game 6, head coach Mike Babcock chose not to reunite the regular season line, but instead placed Datsyuk on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary.
TSN Hockey Analyst Pierre McGuire said that Hossa is encountering difficulties against the Penguins that he did not face earlier in the post-season.
"Hossa has been very good defensively, but is not getting to the net," said McGuire. "His skills have been evident, but it is all to the outside. The time is right for him to elevate like he did in Games 4 and 5 versus Chicago."
"Well, the big thing Hossa has to understand is all he's got to do is do what he does. We've talked about that," said Babcock. "I asked him who scored the goals for Detroit in Game 6 last year in the Final? He didn't know, and neither did I. That's the facts. But I knew we won. Doesn't matter who scores the goals, none of that matters. What matters is do your part and allow the team to win. He'll do that. He'll be great. He was great in, I thought, Game 5. He'll be great tomorrow."
So ironically, the player who was counted on as a scoring leader by the runner-up Penguins a year ago may find himself a champion in Detroit by ultimately having contributed less in the scoring column.
"Obviously, you answer questions every day about Pittsburgh and stuff like this," said Hossa. "Now it comes down to the last game and you try to forget everything and have fun."