Dan Bylsma

Dan Bylsma takes home Jack Adams Award as coach of the year

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Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma helped Pittsburgh navigate a minefield of injuries to big time players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in propelling the Penguins into the playoffs as the fourth seed. He also helped the Penguins to win 49 games this year and came within one point of winning the Atlantic Division.

That sort of rèsumè for Bylsma helped him win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year. Bylsma edged out Alain Vigneault of Vancouver and Nashville’s Barry Trotz for the award. For Bylsma it’s his first coach of the year award and one that he more than earned given the laundry list of injuries the Penguins faced this season up front at forward. Starting out the year without Jordan Staal and closing it without Crosby and Malkin would make most coaches crack.

Bylsma adjusted and helped make the Penguins a tenacious defensive team and one that was poised to be a tough out in the playoffs. The Pens ultimately lost in seven games in the first round to Tampa Bay, but they couldn’t have gotten even that far without his coaching.

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Byslma said his biggest adjustments came before the injuries happened

Call it typical hockey-style modesty if you want, but Bylsma seemed adamant that he didn’t really do anything drastic to keep the Penguins on a winning track after Crosby and Malkin went down.

“I’d like to tell you that I did something really marvelous to keep it going but that’s not the case,” Bylsma said. “And looking back I think that the best thing that we’ve done – and we continue to do – is give our players have a clear understanding of how we’re going to have success as a team and how we’re going to play.”

“At that time when you were all asking what we were doing I felt sheepish thinking I’m really not doing that much. I think all that was done long before the injuries happened.

The impact of HBO

HBO’s 24/7 series was a wonderful display of storytelling, colorful language and Matt Hendricks’ gnarly stitches. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Bylsma, though. He came across as a wonderful (and detailed) motivator and a warm family man in those great episodes.

Bylsma admitted that the documentary series probably helped him win the Jack Adams.

“I think even within the Pittsburgh community of media people, they had a picture of Dan Bylsma in their brain in which they see about 5 percent of who you are,” Bylsma said. “They see a serious guy behind the bench. That’s not me. I’m a terribly emotional person and guy. I have a huge passion for the game and it’s not shown when I’m on the bench.”

Bylsma said that the series showed a different side of his personality and the relationships he has with his players.

I think it was advantageous for me, but I’m not going to put an asterisk by the award just because I had 24/7 though.

Hopefully we’ll get another deeper look at the two coaches in the 2012 Winter Classic when HBO’s cameras roll again.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.