How do you whip the Detroit Red Wings? You'd better be living right, pal. They're big, they're fast, they're deep everywhere. They throw out three lines that can score. They play defense and, yes, Dominik Hasek is still amazing. They even have the nicest uniforms, for crying out loud. Here's something else.
The Red Wings are one of the few teams left in the league with a real home-building advantage. Joe Louis Arena is old and hot. The fans have those stinking fish flying all over the rink. The visiting dressing room is horrible. Last time I was there, the coach's office was in the bathroom. Believe me, no team likes to visit Detroit.
But they can be beaten. You can take it to them. If I'm coaching, this is what I tell my team:
"Get ready to play a perfect series, men. Here's what it takes to triumph over the Red Wings. First off, get disciplined, and I'm talking real discipline. If you're slashed or punched, you're going to have to turn the other cheek. You cannot get egged into a penalty. They got s- disturbers like Sean Avery who try to piss you off. Don't get drawn in because they can't wait to get their power play out there, and those guys are deadly. You have to turn the tables on Detroit. Provoke them. Get them to commit the penalty.
"I know some teams think they're going to wear down the Wings because they're old. Forget it. These guys are in great shape. Yzerman plays like he's 25. Because they're so deep and because they've had the top spot locked up for months, Scotty Bowman has them well-rested. So don't even think you're going to dump the puck and crash their defensemen into submission. They're too smart and experienced for that, and they can turn the puck back the other way in a flash.
"Here's what you do instead. When you're in the neutral zone, no turnovers. Play it safe. It's better to carry the puck and lose it than to pass it and get trapped. Then you have Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov on a two-on-one, and I'll see you on the golf course next week.
"Carry the puck into their end. Carry it deep. Repeat -- do not dump. And when you get in there, be aggressive. Make Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Duchesne play defense. Take it wide. Go ahead and try to beat them one-on-one. Create lots of traffic in front of Hasek. Let's see some commotion. You need to get a man in his face on every shot.
"Most of all, do not fear them. Respect them, sure, but there are teams out there who can match up with them. It comes down to how bad you want it. Be glad you're playing the Detroit Red Wings. You only get to be the best by beating the best."
This article appears in the April 29 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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