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Hawks guru Scotty Bowman offers his take on this season's team
Daily Herald Staff Report
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Published: 4/15/2010 10:58 PM

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Scotty Bowman never needs an introduction, but that's especially true at this time of year.

The Hawks' senior adviser of hockey operations won nine Stanley Cups as a head coach - five at Montreal, one at Pittsburgh and three at Detroit - and two more while working in the front office.

The 76-year-old Bowman dropped by the Hawks' locker room after Thursday's practice to inhale the intoxicating playoff atmosphere ... and to answer a few questions.

Q. When you look at this team compared to last year's, what's the biggest difference?

A. "It's not too much different. A lot of the same players, you know? (Martin) Havlat has gone and (Marian) Hossa has come in. Same team. A lot of good depth.

(Defenseman Niklas) Hjalmarsson has come in and done a great job. When you really think about it, you've got probably 80-85 percent of the players returning.

Q. You've been around a few Stanley Cup champions.

A. Yeah.

Q. Does this team have the feel of a champion?

A. Well, the West is so tough. Look at (Wednesday) night. It's hard to believe (three visiting teams won). But home ice doesn't seem to be the same as when I first started.

Before, more times than not, you'd hold serve and win your first two. You'd go on the road and they'd probably win their two. There wasn't as many breakthroughs.

Now, I think, because the buildings are - not standard - but ... the home team can still have an edge ... but I don't think it's quite the same edge as it was.

Q. Are the ingredients in this locker room there to win a Cup?

A. You know, they had 52 wins during the season. Nashville won 47 games. It's a lot closer than people envision. When you play 80 games and there's only a differential of 5 ...

What was the season record among each other? (He's told it was 4-2 Hawks). So that means both teams did pretty well the same against the rest of the league.

Q. Can increased expectations like the Blackhawks have this year be a good thing for a team?

A. When you win two rounds and you lose in the third round (in 2009), it's even a lot to get back to that.

And the matchups, I think in the West, compare the West travel to (the East). Watching the Philadelphia-New Jersey game, they said it's a two-hour bus ride between the two, you know?

But the West gets used to that during the season. I think in the West, a lot depends on injuries and fatigue. Getting through ... sometimes you play a tough series and you don't get much time (to recuperate).

Last year, when they beat Calgary, I think they had 4-5 days before they went to Vancouver. That was a good break.

Q. Based on what you've seen of (goaltender Antti) Niemi's demeanor and the way he handles himself, do you think the lack of playoff experience will have any effect on how he will or won't perform?

A. Maybe except for (Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre) Fleury and (New Jersey's Martin) Brodeur in the East - and (Buffalo's) Ryan Miller has had a little bit (of experience).

Ryan Miller has been an outstanding goalie. I think he'll be the (favorite) for the Vezina Trophy. The managers vote on that. I'd be surprised if they didn't give it to him for the amount of games and his performance.

But there's more goalies that haven't played in the playoffs than have played. So (Niemi's situation) is not unusual.

Q. Still get a thrill this time of year?

A. Yeah. It's tight. There's games every night. Like I said, last night's the first night and it's so close. Four 1-goal games. Power plays were important. Defensemen scored 7 goals out of 20. It's something, you know?