Pens Off-day Report: Alarming signs have emerged where Bylsma’s system has to be looked at much more closely by management moving forward


When a Cup favorite is down 0-3 in the first round, criticism towards a head coach who has lost six straight playoff games and is 4-10 in his last 14 playoff games, is going to be there and will only mount if the Penguins are swept Wednesday night.
To no surprise, questions about whether criticism towards Bylsma is “fair”, was a hot topic in the locker room today.
“No, ” Sidney Crosby said when asked if the criticism towards Bylsma is fair. “That’s what happens when you lose. You want to point fingers at everyone and that’s not any different in this case, ” he said. “We know in this room we’ve still yet to put a full game together and that’s no ones fault but our own and there’s nothing we can do about that now. Only opportunity we have is to make it better next game and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
James Neal took the same stance.
“Yeah, for sure, ” Neal said indicating the criticism is “unfair”. “We’ve played a style of hockey all year that has been successful. We come out in the first game and they come back and score three goals on us. You can say what you want about it, but we need to play better and we need to not give up chances like we have. We’ve kind of let our goalie out to dry a few times. He’s taken heat for that. It’s a team game and we need to do a lot of things better to get one win, ” Neal said.
While it’s hard to pinpoint the Penguins being down 0-3 on Bylsma and yes they were successful once again in the regular season, but two things management needs to evaluate this off-season very closely is Bylsma’s system moving forward and how the Penguins evaluate players, most notably what they seek out of their defensemen, as the team is infatuated more with defenders who can skate and move the puck well, than they are with defenders who can clear the front of the net, and block shots.
An issue for the Penguins in regards to what might be a Bylsma issue has been a “mindset problem” this hockey club has, something  I wrote about on Sunday prior to Game 3. In game 3, the Penguins “mindset problem” showed up again and a prime example of that is when your 4th line is getting caught deep in the offensive zone and the Flyers going the other way on an odd-man rush leading to a Daniel Briere goal, which gave the Flyers a 3-1 first period lead. When a teams 4th line isn’t responsible defensively, there’s some serious issues.
If the Penguins bow out tomorrow night in the same fashion they did on Sunday, Bylsma doesn’t deserve to lose his job but the heat will surely be on and it should be on in one critical area, his system, with the Penguins imploding this round, struggles in the playoffs for three years now, and defensive struggles for a while being there, that at times were covered up previously by Marc Andre Fleury when he was on his game.
Bylsma’s uptempo offensive style attack has to become looked at much more closely by management and fully evaluated this summer on whether adjustments in Bylsma’s system are needed and can be made with him behind the bench. As one long-time scout told me over the weekend. “A coach trying to go away from what he believes [system] in…. it just leads to trouble.”
Even if the Penguins come back and win a couple games to make things interesting, if this management group goes into the off-season believing the Penguins problems against Philadelphia are mainly just bad luck on special teams and bad goaltending from Marc Andre Fleury, this team will never get to where it wants to go.
— Defenseman Zbynek Michalek played in a tight defensive structure in Phoenix prior to signing with Pittsburgh in 2010, and I asked him today if he feels the Penguins offensive attack needs to be scaled down for the Penguins to start slowing down the Flyers.

“I don’t think so, ” Michalek said. “It’s more about taking care of the puck. “We need to limit turnovers in the neutral zone and make sure we play with the puck more. Sometimes we turn the puck over and they can score on most chances they get.”
Sidney Crosby said today he has no “regrets” for how the Penguins played on Sunday, indicating again that the team was showing some fight and trying to do what they could to win the game. “No, ” Crosby said on whether there are any regrets. “I think we were trying to do whatever we can to win hockey games. We got some bad bounces there and made a couple mistakes that hurt us. We’ve got to find a way to put together a full game. That’s really what it comes down to.”
— The Flyers are 6-10 on the power play, clicking at 40%, but Zbynek Michalek feels the Penguins shouldn’t be rattled.  “I’ve said it before, our penalty kill group is one of the best in the league and we proved it in the regular season, ” Michalek said. “It’s one of the areas that we’ve struggled at, obviously in the series, but  we should be going out there with a lot of confidence that we can kill a penalty.
Michalek said what made the Penguins PK group special during the regular season is that they picked their spots well in not letting the opposition get comfortable. “We’ve gone over the video and if there’s a chance, we need to be aggressive for sure in game 4, ” Michalek said.
Kris Letang said today he was surprised to be ejected from Sunday’s game because he never regarded the Crosby/Grioux scrap as an actual fight. “I was surprised he called a fight on Sid and Giroux because linesman was in the fight the whole time, ” Letang said. “So, the reason I didn’t know there was a fight already is because I didn’t know they would call it a fight, ” Letang said. “It’s not a situation I want to be in, ” Letang later said on being ejected.
— The Penguins are very disappointed that Craig Adams automatic suspension was not rescinded. Hearings are not warranted for instigator penalties and Adams never had the chance to speak with Shanahan about it. “There’s a loophole there where the league can rescind it, if they feel the circumstances do, but they didn’t, ” Adams said. “I thought there was a chance given all that was going on and that was Shanny’s decision and he decided not to.”
Eric Tangradi will make his series debut tomorrow night in an expected 4th line role. “It’s always exciting to play in the playoffs, ” Tangradi said who appeared in Game 4 of last years quarterfinals series against Tampa Bay. “With tensions in this series and fact that I’m going back home, adds a little spice to it, ” he said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity, been closing my eyes at night and looking for this chance.”
Paul Martin’s situation will be something to watch tomorrow. There continues to be a sense that he will be sitting out tomorrow night’s game.
Arron Asham waived his right to a in-person hearing and has a phone hearing scheduled for this evening in Philadelphia. Asham could be suspended for six games or more. The impending free agent has likely played his last game as a Penguin. The consensus around the league is Shanahan needs to come down hard on Asham.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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