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Friday, May 10, 2013

Bylsma's Shake Up Worked by @knucklepucker
If there was ever a moment when a coach under fire could silence his critics, it was Dan Bylsma giving the Max Talbot "shhhhh" last night in game five.

Go back to Tuesday night's game four. The nightmare that it was. The performance all around by the Pittsburgh Penguins was God awful. The coaching by Bylsma was God awful. He struggled to get his team to listen, act, or respond.

That all changed on Wednesday.

The decision to get off the ice and into a video session cancelling the optional skate was huge. That performance from the team's perspective Tuesday night wasn't going to get solved doing drills. This team needed to see for themselves again what it was they were doing wrong. The long outlet passes, lack of composure, the turnovers, all things that needed to be absorbed by the players.

Turns out they absorb information well.

Marc-Andre Fleury's confidence was clearly shaken after game four. You could see it as he shook his head in his glove on the bench. The decision to bring in Tomas Vokoun wasn't as big of a coaching was the only decision. The other moves Bylsma made for game five changed the landscape of the lines and the thinking in the player's minds.

The turnovers for the most part vanished when defensemen corrected their passes. Short crisp stick-to-stick passes, not the the long outlet through center ice (although the Letang to Kennedy pass was sick. Crosby to Iginla also connected for a goal too). None the less, when the Pens got smart about passing, the turnovers and breakaways with defenders left hanging went away.
The personal changes Bylsma made also paid off. Kennedy played like he was on bath salts. Joe Vitale was everywhere throwing his body into Islander players. And while Vokoun looked shaky, he did pitch a shutout. You can't be too critical on a guy who hasn't started an NHL playoff game since 2007. Those players Bylsma called upon answered in a big way last night.

Just overall, Bylsma got it through to his team they needs to play smarter. The Penguins learned how to play with a lead again, and played with composure not getting involved with the scrums after the whistle (except for James Neal).

It's almost as though the Penguins forgot how to play Penguins hockey. They were lost. Bylsma had to slow things down between games with the film session, and it worked.

Bylsma deserves a lot of credit for getting the Penguins turned around in game five. The ship isn't completely corrected, but it's turning and that's a hell of a lot better than the water this team was taking on Tuesday night.

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