MORNING PENGUINS BUZZ
In last years playoff debacle vs the Philadelphia Flyers where the Penguins were badly out coached throughout the series with no adjustments made as the series progressed from the coaching staff and little things missed from a coaching standpoint like the Penguins not attacking the Flyers six left handed defensemen the right way on the forecheck like the Devils staff were able to pinpoint and exploit vs the Flyers in the second round, a GM could have easily came to a decision that it was time for a coaching change.
Heck, some fans were ready to chase Bylsma out of town following the Winnipeg loss 12 days ago, the fourth game of the season.
Despite three straight early playoff exits, Bylsma has entered this season with his seat not even close to being “warm” as he’s so highly regarded in the organziation from GM Ray Shero to Team President David Morehouse that if the Penguins go out again in the first round this spring, the chances would be greater of Bylsma receiving an extension (1 year left on his contract) next fall than being fired.
However, last years playoff debacle might have been good for him and a possible wakeup call.
I’ve felt in the past that Bylsma has been hard headed regarding his system and we’re seeing the coaching staff adapting on the fly more this season from a more defensive structure in defending the neutral zone to adjustments on the PK that obviously didn’t happen last year in the playoffs.
Last night’s game was a prime example. The Penguins penalty kill was a mess on home ice a week ago vs the Islanders and the coaching staff obviously went over the tape and pinpointed what was wrong. In going seven for seven on the PK, the Penguins were less stationary and made a focus on tightening their box against the Islanders who like to move the puck through the box.
The Penguins responding to Bylsma with four straight wins after being embarrassed on home ice last Tuesday night during a stretch of where they lost three of four games, has also been big as questions were slowly starting to mount around the league (Not from Penguin management) if this team was too comfortable under him.
Eight to Ten games from now we could be having a different discussion about this staff but the adjustments on the fly have been promising.
Here’s a few other things I’ve liked from Bylsma from a personnel standpoint and going away from his original plan:
1. James Neal’s role on the power play – With this roster pretty much set in July, Bylsma had around six to seven months due to the lockout to come up with a power play setup he wanted. He came up with James Neal going to the left point in a so called “rover” role and to no surprise it didn’t work. But, give Bylsma credit for quickly realizing it was a mistake to move the NHL’s leading power play scorer to the point and scrapping that power play setup after six games and moving Neal back down low.
2. Not sticking with Eric Tangradi – Three games was a short audition for Eric Tangradi on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal and Bylsma is said to have been confident of Tangradi being a fit with those two. After three games Bylsma obviously saw what any scout saw and that it just wasn’t going to work as Tangradi doesn’t have the ability to make skilled plays at NHL speed.
3. Shutdown pair Paul Martin – Brooks Orpik – Few thought this would work and through ten games they’ve truly been a shutdown pair, giving up just 4 even strength goals against together.
4. Pushing for Simon Despres to start year in Pittsburgh – I was not a big fan of Bylsma sitting Despres in games four and five of the season but if management had their way, Despres would have started the year in Wilkes Barre. Bylsma was sold on Despres being one of the Penguins top-6 defensemen and while he’s had some uneasy moments, Despres has upgraded the Penguins blueline.