The buzz around the arena this week is that Dan Bylsma is a tougher coach this season. Based on evaluating practices that might be true but what has changed with Bylsma is his coaching philosophy.
Last year the Penguins were all about being an up-tempo team. That hasn’t changed to some extent this year but what has changed for the better is that there’s a much stronger focus on being a more defensive minded team.
It first started with management on July 1 when the Penguins made a big splash in signing defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin to multi-year deals.
With the regular season approaching, getting “defensive” has now trickled down to the coaching staff.
Bylsma believes the Penguins have improved in a couple ways but most importantly Bylsma said the Penguins mindset has changed to being a defensive minded team.
“I think we have improved, ” Bylsma said.
“I think we have improved a couple ways. I think we’ve improved with our defense and our ability to defend, and the mindset that’s something we’re going to be doing, protecting leads and winning one goal games.”
“But I also think our mindset is better right now for how we’re going to be approaching the season and the chip on our shoulder a little bit from not getting the result and not meeting expectations maybe we had for ourselves last year, Bylsma said. “That’s going to be an improvement for our team.”
Bylsma also touched based today on the Atlantic division, saying he believes the Rangers, Devils and Flyers will all be factors.
The Penguins face the Flyers and Devils in two of their first three games. The Devils were 6-0 against Pittsburgh last year but Bylsma said today that he doesn’t have a good handle on them just yet due to the full-time addition of Ilya Kovalchuk.
“Philly was an interesting one last year, ” Bylsma said. “At beginning year at this time a year ago, Philly was projected as a Cup contender. They didn’t have the season I think they were looking for, hoped for, expected and they turned out to be a Cup contender at the end.”
“Because they do have some very good pieces, good defense and I expect them to be that way again, ” Bylsma said. “I expect them to be more like they were in the playoffs than they were in the regular season.”
“New Jersey’s one I’m not sure I’ve got a good handle on yet with the full time addition of Kovalchuk, and what that’s going to do for their team, ” Bylsma said. “But I expect them to be a good team again.
“With the Rangers, their goaltending is outstanding and can be a factor for the team….they can be very good, ” Bylsma said.