CHICAGO - When you think about the Chicago Blackhawks, the names that immediately come to mind are Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith. All very talented, all very young. To find the right mix for a championship, Chicago management has dotted the roster with a number of tried-and-true veterans. That the Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Finals indicates the plan has paid dividends.
More often than not, successful teams need to have a mix of up-and-coming players mixed with cagey veterans who have been through the action, such as John Madden and Marian Hossa.
After watching his team lose in the Western Conference finals last season to a more seasoned Detroit club, Dale Tallon, then the Chicago general manager, signed Madden and Hossa not only for their contributions on the ice, but also off.
To get perspective on what it will take to win four more games, a steady stream of players have been approaching Madden, who spent 10 seasons in New Jersey helping the Devils win two Stanley Cup championships.
"You respect a guy like that, especially when he is a little bit older," Kane said. "You watch the different things he does and how he carries himself off the ice and gets ready for games."
Madden, the center on Chicago's fourth line, is averaging just under 12 minutes a game in the playoffs. But when the Blackhawks are shorthanded, look for him to be on the ice.
"Madden has been a great pro all year," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Our penalty-killing going into this season was something that needed to be addressed from last year. He immediately helped give us some predictability. He helped on face-offs and helped on positioning."
Madden said he was surprised by the maturity of the young stars when he arrived in Chicago and detected a businesslike approach beyond their years.
He said his elder-statesman role means he is around a bunch of young guys who are having fun, which makes life fun for him as well. "It doesn't feel like I am 37 years old," he said.
For his part, Hossa, 31, is about to embark on his third straight Stanley Cup Finals with a third different team. He played for Pittsburgh in 2008 and moved over to Detroit in 2009 before joining Chicago.
After missing the first 22 games of the season with a shoulder surgery, Hossa, finished up his 12th NHL season with 24 goals. The right winger may have only scored twice in the playoffs, but one of those goals came moments after he left the penalty box in overtime of Game 5 in Chicago's opening-round series against Nashville.
His linemate, Patrick Sharp, expects Hossa to be a big factor in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"He's a veteran player," Sharp said. "He is one of our leaders, and he has been through this before. We are looking at him to show us how things are done, and we know he is going to play great."
The players have been grateful for the knowledge Madden and Hossa have brought to the United Center. So has Quenneville.
"Going into the playoffs, both have been instrumental in knowing the focus of the team is in the right place," the coach said. "It is a good thing to have in our back pocket with their experiences."