With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins (42-24-6-90 pts) appear to be in prime position for another Stanley Cup run, currently in first place in the Atlantic division and a lock to earn home-ice in at least the first round of the playoffs.
However, the Penguins are not playing Stanley Cup caliber hockey and what needs to get out of the players heads is the notion that they will all of a sudden turn it on when the playoffs starts.
Dan Bylsma made it know following Saturday’s game that he is not happy with his teams play and Bylsma has took it upon himself to send the message that gearing up for the playoffs starts Monday night in Detroit and the Penguins waiting for the playoffs to play “their” game won’t result in another Stanley Cup run.
Like most coaches some of Bylsma’s personnel moves can be questioned of late but Bylsma is sending the right message to his team in demanding more from his players with 10 regular season games remaining.
Sitting in the position that the Penguins are in, Bylsma could easily be content but he knows there are going to be many obstacles in the Penguins way to get back to the Cup Finals and the Penguins must be playing at the top of their game to defend their title. Getting the Penguins to finish strong and putting together 60 minute games on a consistent basis will be the key development over the next 10 games.
On the road against the rival Detroit Red Wings Monday night and marquee matchup against the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, Bylsma will soon find out if his players buy into his message that the playoffs start now for his team.
Bill Guerin was among the players in the locker room Sunday who agreed with what Bylsma is stressing. However, I still get the vibe that everyone hasn’t.
Malkin probable @ Detroit
Evgeni Malkin did not practice on Sunday, giving his injured foot a days rest. According to team officials, Malkin is regarded as probable against the Red Wings .
Matt Cooke also missed practice and was given a day off. The Penguins went through a light skate and didn’t go through any kind of line combinations.
Fleury returns to Joe Louis Arena
Marc Andre Fleury returns to Joe Louis where he is 3-5 in his last 8 starts including post-season but is the place where he delivered a sensational performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
A return to Joe Louis will be emotional for the Penguins and from the Pens standpoint, hopefully be a starting point for Fleury to get back on track.
Dan Bylsma has talked extensively about the Penguins lacking consistency and Fleury agreed with that after Sunday’s practice.
Fleury talked today after practice about the need to elevate his play during the stretch run and bringing more consistency to the ice individually and as a team.
Fleury who has been pulled 7 times this season, is among the key members of the team who are not playing up to their ability.
Will Crosby reach 50 goals?
Sidney Crosby appeared to be a lock for 50 goals but is 5 goals short of the elusive mark with 10 games remaining.
Since the Olympic break, Crosby has 3 goals in 10 games and 0 goals in his last 4 games.