Penguins' Bylsma stayed calm under fire
By Rob Rossi, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
SUNRISE, Fla. — It would be easy to credit coach Dan Bylsma with the Penguins' recent turnaround: He has steered the team to a 5-0-1 run since a home loss two weeks ago described by this media outlet as "rock bottom."
Not only is it easy, but it is also well-deserved. He is as responsible for this change in fortune — the Penguins had lost five of seven in regulation — as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (.920 save percentage), centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (eight goals, 22 points combined) and the penalty-kill units (24 for 25).
Look not at any adjustments Bylsma made strategically, but rather at the one he resisted making after the Penguins blew a two-goal lead in the third period of a home loss to Boston, a loss that featured five unanswered goals by the Bruins over the last 20 minutes.
Calm, cool and, surprisingly, with an occasional grin, Bylsma fielded questions from a ready-to-pounce media that night at Consol Energy Center. His critics weren't given any ammunition in the form of harsh words for them or Penguins players, and Bylsma carefully avoided any statements from which negativity could be extracted.
Privately, he was fuming over the Penguins' continued penchant for poor team defense, an inept power play and selfish, careless turnovers by players.
He never fumed publicly, though, and there is no indication he raised his voice behind closed doors.
Bylsma stayed true to his vow never to go negative. By persistently sticking to that vow during the rough start to this month, he showed growth as a coach, gained a greater measure of respect from players, and reaffirmed the belief that general manager Ray Shero has in him.
That stay-true-to-yourself quality is one Shero likes best about Bylsma, whose job was never in danger and won't be this season.
It is also a quality that meshes well with Crosby, who, like Bylsma, is fiercely competitive but stays on message — 99 percent of the time, it moves discussion forward — when everybody not employed by the Penguins is screaming for somebody to scream about something.
Shero once said the easiest thing to do in tough times is to get negative, to make some noise.
His coach wasn't interested in that easy option two weeks ago, and that is a big reason why the Penguins are better today.