Penguins Update: Bylsma Pushes the Right Buttons – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Bylsma Pushes the Right Buttons

There’s an old adage in sports—ride the horse that brung ya.’ (Or something like that.) Thank goodness Penguins coach Dan Bylsma paid it no mind as filled out his lineup card for Thursday’s critical Game 5 matchup with the pesky New York Islanders.

pp0350I’ve been critical of the Pens’ skipper in the past for what I felt were questionable personnel moves. But last night he made the Dean’s List.

First and foremost, Bylsma had the courage to bench a wilting Marc-Andre Fleury in favor of backup goalie Tomas Vokoun. He also had the good sense to announce the switch well in advance so the team had time to mentally prepare.

Making his first playoff start since 2007, the 36-year-old Czech was terrific. Not only did Vokoun slam the door on the Islanders, but his steadiness and composure between the pipes rubbed off on the rest of the team.

That move alone would’ve earned Bylsma straight A’s. However, he made several other adjustments that reaped significant dividends. The Bowling Green grad shifted Jarome Iginla to right wing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. “Iggy” seemed more comfortable manning his natural position and displayed good chemistry with Sid. They combined to freeze Isles goalie Evgeni Nabakov on No. 87’s back-breaking (and breathtaking) third goal.

Bylsma wasn’t finished. He plugged Chris Kunitz into his old slot beside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, thus reuniting the high-octane “Firing Line” that lit up the opposition last season like General Sherman’s troops putting the torch to Dixie. Each member of the line was a plus-1. Geno, in particular, seemed rejuvenated by “Kuny’s” presence.

In a pair of minor—but no less important shuffles—Bylsma scratched Tanner Glass and Jussi Jokinen in favor of feisty energy players Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale. The buzzsaw twins served notice that the visitors were in for a long evening when they scuffled with Isles d-men Travis Hamonic and Brian Strait early on. “T.K.” punctuated his return with a spectacular breakaway goal midway through the second period to open the scoring.

The final change—replacing struggling veteran Mark Eaton with coltish defender Simon Despres—was a bit of a gamble. It paid off handsomely, as Despres used his size and mobility to help thwart the Islanders’ attack.

The Pens aren’t out of the woods yet—not by a longshot. There’s still a Game 6 to be played in Uniondale on Saturday and the Islanders surely will be skating with the knife-blade edge of a team facing elimination. But if Bylsma keeps pushing the right buttons, I like our chances.

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  1. Gary Harding's Gravatar Gary Harding
    May 11, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Congrats on winning the series. Best of luck in the next round…

    It was fun, and I hope that my team proved to the league that we are a team on the rise.

    Gary Harding

    • RINIJG's Gravatar RINIJG
      May 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for being classy Gary.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the congrats, Gary … 🙂 Your Islanders put up a heckuva fight. Frankly, I thought they outplayed our Pens in four out of six games, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

      That’s a really impressive young team you’ve got up there on the Island. They’re perhaps an established forward, defenseman, and goalie away from being a serious contender.

      FYI, I always admired the great Islanders teams of the 1970s and 1980s. If it weren’t for the Pens they would’ve been my favorite team. So many terrific players … Trottier, Bossy, Potvin, Bourne, Morrow, and Brent Sutter, to name a few. Tough as nails too, with guys like Gillies, Howatt and Bob “Knuckles” Nystrom–maybe my all-time favorite non-Penguin.

  2. I R A Darth Aggie's Gravatar I R A Darth Aggie
    May 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Tonight is the night to slam the door and nail it shut.

  3. kerrdog211's Gravatar kerrdog211
    May 11, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    While I agree with almost every aspect of you piece. I disagree that adding Kennedy and Vitale was a “minor” change. Kennedy was like a Visa card he was everywhere you wanted him to be. He skated on the 4th & 3rd line and had 14:19 of ice time that’s more than Kunitz and Neal had. Adding these two guys allowed the Pens to run all 4 lines and not shorten their bench agents the faster Islanders team. To quote Chris Mueller Tyler Kennedy is a “little ball of hate”, and that young man will track the puck like a coonhound on crack. So while I hate to see Jussi sit and hope he’s back on the ice if we get to the next series Tanner Glasses should keep his street clothes on because he offers this team very little.


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