bylsmahbo247

Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma’s personalities may shine in HBO’s 24/7 series, which premieres tonight

If you ask people around the game of hockey, most will probably admit that – for all the game’s many strengths, including the character of its players – it’s not very often that we get to learn much about how much character each player and coach displays.

Most of the time, the game’s biggest stars either lean heavily on cliches (like Sidney Crosby) or struggle a bit considering the fact that English isn’t their first language (like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin). Sure, every now and then a vibrant talker comes along like Patrick Kane or Jeremy Roenick, but most of the time an interview only illuminates a person’s expertise in saying exactly what the PR staff wants to hear.

Getting to know two of the league’s most talented young teams is one of the main reasons that people are so excited about HBO’s “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic.” (The other being that it’s HBO, the network that seems like it has a Midas touch right now.)

While there will be some interesting chats with oddballs such as Maxime Talbot, the true stars could end up being coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma. Chris Botta of the New York Times’ Slap Shot blog provides an inside look at the series, which premieres tonight on HBO at 10 pm ET.

If this four-act play features enough drama, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin could see their fame extend beyond hockey nation. The teams both have plenty of funny and insightful “character actors,” from Pascal Dupuis and Eric Godard in Pittsburgh to Brooks Laich and D.J. King in Washington, who will undoubtedly emerge as leading players.

Although the eminently quotable Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau was picked by most pundits to become the breakout star of “24/7,” watch out for the man behind the home team bench. Despite leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009, Dan Bylsma is far from a household name — even in Pittsburgh. But he is an original thinker, a charismatic figure and more than a little quirky. So far, he has enjoyed the HBO life.

“We’ve encouraged the guys to make the most of the experience,” Bylsma said of having every word and image captured for broadcast. “This is something we’ll look back on years from now and appreciate. We’re going to enjoy the moment.”

I worked with Bylsma for one season when he was an assistant coach with the Islanders in 2003-4. Although assistants are more comfortable to be themselves than the head coach, Bylsma is quite the free spirit. If, as advertised, HBO’s cameras will be everywhere around the Penguins for these four weeks, you’ll get to see what I mean.

It should be a lot of fun to watch.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
AP
Leave a comment

Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
1 Comment

Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
Leave a comment

The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

8 Comments

As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’