It’s hard to believe the Pittsburgh Penguins sit where they do given the adversity they’ve faced throughout this year.
The prevalent school of thought outside of Pittsburgh was that the Penguins were a team predicated on depth at center, and losses to their star centers would put a knife in the chest of the Pittsburgh franchise.
No one was scared by the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite the fact that this team has played a mere 1 game with it’s top 3 centers intact, the Penguins are coming off of a huge win against first place Philadelphia and are only 4 points out of the conference lead.
Dan Bylsma has placed his mark on this team.
If we’ve learned anything over the course of the year, it’s that hard work and tenacity pays off no matter who is on the roster. Dan Bylsma has the Penguins dialed in, and they are playing their game. The game that Bylsma demands of his players.
Sergei Bobrovsky put on a show in goal for the Flyers, and had he not been as sharp as he was, that game had the potential to be a blow out.
On the road, against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins had control of the game and imposed their physical, “get north” style. As pointed out by Mike Adams, the Penguins held the Flyers to 18 total shots and only 41 total attempted.
Dan Bylsma has this team playing with pride, playing defensively, and being relentless on the puck. His 1-2-2 “swing” forecheck has the opposition coughing the puck up in the neutral zone and he is suffocating opposing forward units while generating odd-man breaks the other way.
For a little more perspective on what Bylsma has done, take a look around the league. Remove the top 2 offensive producers and the top defenseman from each roster in the NHL. How would those teams respond? Not to pick on the Boston Bruins, but what would their season look like without Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton, and David Krejci in the line-up for the last half of the season? What would Tampa look like without Hedman, Stamkos and Lecavalier?
It’s hard to imagine those teams would be in the position they’re currently in, continuously earning points in a physical fashion on a nightly basis.
Bylsma should have the Jack Adams hands down, no questions asked.
- The line of Kunitz, Staal and Kennedy has looked fantastic at even strength. And a shot out to TK especially, he has stepped up huge in the absence of our top forwards. Kunitz, who has returned from injury in an astonishing fashion, should be re-signed by Ray Shero as soon as this season ends.
- Barring any unforeseen disasters, this will be the best statistical season that Marc-Andre Fleury has had since getting drafted in 2003. The Flower is a big reason we are where we are, and his abysmal start to the year is all but forgotten.
- Zbynek Michalek is a shot blocking machine. He was taking away chances left and right for the Flyers last night. When Orpik returns, the minutes will be spread out in a more even fashion, a bonus for our top 3, which have been logging major time in the absence of #44.
- While Kovalev and Neal might not be lighting the lamp with regularity, they created chances last night and had the Flyers on their heels for several shifts in a row.
- One last note, I will be hosting a live chat for Sunday afternoon’s matinee against the Florida Panthers.