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Published: Monday, 4/14/2003

Red Wings are down 0-2; what would Scotty do?

Deep down, every loyal Detroit Red Wings fan is thinking the same thing after the home team has fallen behind 0-2 in the opening series of the NHL playoffs:

What would Scotty Bowman do?

Not, how are the Red Wings going to climb back into this series? Or, when are the breaks finally going to start going the Red Wings' way? Or, can goalie Curtis Joseph lead the Red Wings back to the Stanley Cup finals the way Dominik Hasek did last year?

Nope. What would Scotty do?

The key differences between this year's Red Wings and last year's team are the goalie and the coach. Longtime assistant Dave Lewis replaced Bowman, who retired after Detroit's 2002 Stanley Cup championship.

The Red Wings signed Joseph to replace Hasek, who retired although he still had more tread left on his tires.

Joseph, who had a wonderful regular season, didn't endear himself to Red Wings fans with his performance in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. He permitted a soft goal in the first period of Saturday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim at Joe Louis Arena.

Hasek had some uncertain moments in last year's playoffs. But he ultimately did what he was brought to Detroit to do. He won his first Stanley Cup, giving him one more than Joseph.

Without Bowman behind the bench, the attention shifts from the coach back to the Red Wings players.

Bowman was a master of removing the focus from his players and placing it on himself.

Through trial and error, veterans like Steve Yzerman finally understood what Bowman was trying to accomplish and stopped taking his criticism personally because they realized he wanted to win as much as they did.

By now, Bowman would have tinkered with some of the regulars' ice time or made a cryptic remark about Joseph needing to step it up in the postseason.

Bowman would have done something - anything - to shake up the troops.

Lewis has put his own stamp on the team. His personality is different from Bowman's. He's more of a coach and less of a psychologist.

There's nothing wrong with being predictable. Predictability is good. The Red Wings almost always know what to expect from Lewis.

Maybe they've become more comfortable with Bowman gone. Maybe they've lost some of the edge needed to win back-to-back championships.

With Bowman, sometimes the players knew what to expect, sometimes they didn't.

Unpredictability can be a good thing.

Bowman got away with a lot of things that only the greatest coach in NHL history could have pulled off.

He rubbed some players the wrong way. But his reputation forced them to listen and obey - in spite of themselves.

The transition from Bowman to Lewis during the regular season was seamless. The Red Wings didn't miss a beat.

Down 0-2 in the opening round of the playoffs, what should the Red Wings do?

What would Scotty do?

Doesn't matter. What matters now is: What will Dave do? The Red Wings' season almost certainly depends on it.



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