'Hawks hoping for some Bowman magic

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:29 PM ET

CHICAGO - They each got a piece of paper, a blank sheet begging for possibilities, ideas, for inspiration.

On the flight back from Philadelphia, after losing two games and all their Stanley Cup final momentum at the Wachovia Center, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had the idea to hand out pieces of paper to advisor Scotty Bowman, general manager Stan Bowman, to his assistant coaches.

“He said, ‘put down some lines,’” said Scotty Bowman, who sat next to Quenneville on the flight.

“It was fun to do,” said the 76-year-old, who is perhaps the greatest all-time strategist in the game when it came to mixing and matching players, sensing who was in full flight on a given night, which combination of skill, speed and grit would present the greatest challenge to the opponent.

Bowman, remarkably, is involved in his 16th Stanley Cup final and has been a part of 11 Cup winners in different capacities (nine as the coach), so it would only figure that he might have a thing or two to contribute to the ’Hawks’ cause.

In making his suggestions, Bowman started with a basic premise: Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger - through the first four games - was dominating the ’Hawks top line of captain Jonathan Toews and wingers Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane. They needed to be broken apart so Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette would be forced to choose against which of the three he would want to play Pronger, leaving the other two more room, perhaps.

The question for Bowman was who would play with Toews. He said all the ’Hawks braintrust agreed winger Marian Hossa “was playing real good,” and putting him with Toews was worth a look.

The ’Hawks braintrust turned in their ideas to Quenneville, who had started the line shuffling in the third period of Game 4.

“He has the final say,” said Bowman.

Tomas Kopecky wound up on the other side of Toews and Hossa.

Byfuglien wound up with Dave Bollard and Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd completed a third line with Patrick Sharp and Kane.

“Pronger was playing so good and their other guys, (Kimmo) Timonen and (Braydon) Cobourn are okay, too. I think the biggest benefactor was Kane and Sharp playing together. Kane is not a big guy and Pronger is huge. We were determined (Pronger) wouldn’t be able to play against all three. Joel has the final say and he hasn’t been hesitant during the year to mix and match. Toews and Kane had been separated before.

“We wanted to make some lines that would just let the guys go out and play.”

The lines clicked, of course, in the ’Hawks’ 7-4 win in Game 5 and they are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Bowman will be sitting next to Quenneville again Tuesday on the flight back to Philadelphia for Game 6 Wednesday night.

“We always talk strategy with Scotty. He always has some good ideas, things sometimes you don’t think about,” said Quenneville. “I’ll sit with him on the plane. I sat with him on the plane coming back from Philly. I’ll sit with him tomorrow. He’s in the room a lot. He’s always visiting with good ideas, good suggestions.

“His experience of being at this time in the playoffs season, being around and knowing the right things to say or do or to think about. Sometimes I don’t always look at it that way. I think he’s a great guy to have around to keep things in perspective.”

You know this is Bowman’s time of year. He is not on the front lines any longer, but make no mistake, his experience and his strategizing are a huge and valuable resource for Quenneville and the ’Hawks.

Quenneville is a smart guy. He knows who to put next to each other on the ice.

He knows who to put in the seat beside him.


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