I'm going to tempt the fates here and deliver a mini-analysis of what's gone right with the Penguins since Dan Bylsma took over as head coach. The turn-around has been nothing short of stunning. Since Bylsma took over on February 16th, the team has lost just two out of 18 games in regulation time, and lost only three games in OT or shootouts, taking one point. They have won 13 games, three of those in OT or shootouts. The Pens came into Bylsma's term with 58 points. Headed into the final seven games of the season, a team that had a slim to none chance of making the playoffs now sits firmly if a tad uncomfortably in sixth place, with 88 points and a bit of wiggle room either way that could, potentially, get them into a home-ice situation in the first round depending on how other teams do.
I'll let you think on that for a minute. 30 points since Bylsma took over, in 18 games. Freaking unbelievable.
Now, not for one second do I believe the coaching change is responsible for all of that. The dead, stinking albatross-like weight of Ryan Whitney was finally eliminated from the shoulders of the team. Defensive leader Sergei Gonchar came roaring back with a vengance, earning 15 points in 18 games. And late trading was good to the Penguins, with the additions of Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin, and Craig Adams.
Still, could Michel Therrien have done the same with the same circumstances? I doubt it. In hockey, sometimes a team is just done with a coach, and as much as I like Therrien and as great as his results were last year, it was apparent that the players were through with him. It's a little sad, but it's not the first time this has happened to a hockey coach, and it won't be the last. Therrien understands that, as does Bylsma, I'm sure. It's tough to keep everyone on your side and working to their full potential when things start to go bad, and Therrien was unable to stop the skid. Good luck to him, wherever he ends up.
In the meantime, Dan Bylsma has a fired-up team, and excited fan base, and a stellar record in his brief tenure. Here's hoping he can continue the success deep into the playoffs, and here's hoping that, if he doesn't, the team will continue to perform for him next year if GM Shero keeps him on.
In other news, I found this sweet Mario Lemieux commercial from 1987 on youtube while I was looking for something else.
Love that two-toned grey Blazer. I'll bet Mario doesn't drive one of those any more.
Here's what I was looking for, the "Great Day for Hockey" commercial featuring Evgeni Malkin. It's not as good as I wanted it to be since it's just recorded from someone's television set, but it's an awesome commercial because it really showcases Malkin's skills as a player and how he sees the game.
Hopefully at some point I can find a better copy.
A random bit of Errey-Otica.
(Be sure to check out Erreyblog for the best coverage of Bob and Steigy's verbal pulchritude.)
"There's five guys on that puck! Just throw a blanket over them!" WHAT????
Until next time...