Thursday, April 12, 2012

GTOPG: Dan Bylsma is Alive

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

No need to rehash what happened on Wednesday night (you can get a full analysis of Pens-Flyers game 1 here).  We saw it, we tried to digest it, we threw up a little in our mouths, then we forced it down again.  It's over.  Now we're more interested in what's happening on today, because there are two particular things that we fervently hoped the Penguins would not do at practice on Thursday:

1) Change nothing; or
2) Change everything.

The former would have suggested some form of denial akin to going 1 for 35 on the power play in a playoff series against Tampa Bay but refusing to change personnel or tactics.  The latter would have suggested panic.

Most panicked he ever gets.
Instead, we saw the Penguins coaches do what we've suggested many times: put Steve Sullivan back on the number 1 power play and at least experiment with using Sidney Crosby as the leader of a #1A unit.  Getting Sullivan, the player best suited to consistently gaining the offensive zone with a man advantage, back out there seems like an obvious move, but it also forces a decision about who among Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, and Neal is forced off the top unit.  This is usually portrayed as a coaching dilemma because of the sense that somebody's ego will be wounded by a perceived demotion to the second power play.  At this stage of the season and coming off a game where no one on star-packed top unit looked to have any sense of purpose, seriously, no one gives a shit about hurt feelings.  Credit to Dan Bylsma for quickly pulling the trigger on this.

More on preparing for Game 2, after the jump...

- Finesse, currently on his way to yet another bachelor party in some exotic locale*, has a theory.  He thinks the problem with the Pens defense, both the way it's constructed and coached, is that it is too cerebral.  There is a lot of focus on reading the play, stick on puck, and making a quick first pass, but he wonders if that model is really better in the playoffs than having Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill hog-tying bodies in front of the net.  We'll see.  Here's one thing that seems clear:  Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, so good in New Jersey and Phoenix, respectively, haven't been a good fit here this year.  Whether it's just poor play, Bylsma's system, or some combination of the two, it'll be a major topic of offseason discussion.  For now, as discussed last night on the podcast, forget trying to remake the defense. This is what we're working with right now, and this team did not win 50 games this season by playing poor defense.  The key for the Penguins is to stay aggressive and play in the offensive zone no matter the score.

- Jordan Staal's line was the Penguins' best on Wednesday, offensively and defensively.  It kept Claude Giroux's line silent.  That was the one small victory we can take from a game the Pens lost in almost the worst way imaginable.

- It's time to get the Malkin line away from Sean Couturier. Geno and Neal did little in Game 1, and Bylsma, in turn, did little to match lines outside of keeping Staal on Giroux.  Don't be surprised to see the Pens try to get Geno matched against what proved to be the Flyers' scariest trio: Briere, Schenn, and Simmonds.  Might be advisable to keep the puck away from those guys, and going strength against strength is a way to do it.

- Briere is an absolutely deadly playoff performer.

- Pens in 6.

* Finesse's official explanation for why he is traveling around the United States and Puerto Rico on a Bachelor Party Tour is that he needs to keep his mind sharp.  "I am a cerebral guy," he said Thursday as he boarded an airplane.  "And so it's helpful to engage in the kind of activities that your brain ticking."

Listen to the GTOG Podcast here.

1 comment:

  1. Eh- the top line was less than useless yesterday, so I get the need to get them away from Couturier. But they spent most of the game running around in their own defensive zone and looking pretty lost doing it. If they got outperformed by the Flyers third line, I hate to think how bad they'll look up against an even more dangerous second line. They barely touched the puck as it was.

    Oh but, wait, this was the ZOMG greatest line ever that couldn't possibly be split up. So now we have an invisible top line - and exactly 1 dangerous offensive player on the other 3. Sounds about right.