Tag: Dan Bylsma

Sidney Crosby

Calmer Crosby enjoying early season success


Bill Guerin still shows up to the rink in a suit on game days; however, when the puck drops he’s high above the ice watching from a suite as the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager.

The view gives him a new found appreciation for the game’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby.

Guerin was a teammate of Crosby’s for parts of two seasons (2009-10) capturing his second Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

“Night-in, night-out you get spoiled watching him,  said Guerin. “One of the best things is watching him in practice, watching his work ethic, watching what he can do with the puck when it’s practice, when you’re working on things and you’re trying different things.

“That’s when you get a real appreciation for what he does.”

Originally the fifth overall pick at the 1989 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, Guerin appeared in 1,263 games with the Devils, Oilers, Bruins, Stars, Blues, Sharks, Islanders and Penguins scoring 429 goals and 856 points.

Guerin first played with Crosby six years ago, with a then 21-year-old ‘Sid the Kid’.

According to Guerin, the biggest improvement he’s seen in the now 27-year-old Crosby has nothing to do with his on-ice skills.

“I think he controls his emotions a lot more,” said Guerin. “I think he’s really brought a calming affect to the room.”

Crosby admits he’s learned to pick his spots better and approaches the game with a calmer demeanour.

“Hopefully with more experience you learn that it’s a little bit better to stay even keel,” Crosby said following his second three-point performance of the season Saturday. “I don’t think you want to take the emotion out of the game. I feel that passion and energy is something that I need to play with.

“But I think just knowing when to maybe turn it down is important so hopefully that’s something that gets better as you get older.”

Added former linemante Pascal Dupuis, “He matured as a hockey player, matured as a person and it shows on the ice.”

With three goals and six points through the first two games of the season, Crosby is off to his best start since the 2011-12 season when he had seven points in the first three games of the season.

He appears further motivated by how the 2013-14 season ended – a loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Easter Conference semifinals.

In the offseason the Penguins cleared out the front office firing GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma.

“You come in with the mentality that you want to start quick, get some momentum, get some confidence,” said Crosby. “Had a long summer, had a lot of time to think about last year, we’re all pretty excited to get started. I think everybody’s excited to get started, but it’s nice to see it translate into a couple wins.”

He’s also learning to play with a new linemate in offseason acquisition, Patric Hornqvist.

“It’s really fun; he competes hard, goes to the net hard. He’s got a great shot,” said Crosby. “I think between the three of us we try to dig lose pucks out, go to the net and generate chances.”

The line, which includes Chris Kunitz, has combined for six goals and 12 points through the Penguins first two games of the season.

They’ll have plenty of time to grow as a line this week as Pittsburgh doesn’t play until Thursday when they host the Dallas Stars.

Looking to make the leap: Simon Despres

Simon Despres

By now, you may know all about Simon Despres. The smooth-skating defenseman has gotten a more than a few looks the past three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but now he’s at a bit of a crossroads.

As opposed to other players we’ve featured in our series, Despres is in a tricky position when it comes to making the leap. Instead of trying to blast his way out of junior or college hockey, he’s trying to make his way out of the American Hockey League.

The 23-year-old came in highly-touted when he was taken in the first-round, 30th overall in 2009 out of Saint John. He put up strong numbers for the Sea Dogs and turned pro in 2011. Since then, it’s been a bumpy ride that’s seen him get acclimated to taking the bus between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh.

One of the highlights to his game coming out of juniors was his offensive play. In four seasons he had 134 points in 240 games (0.55 points per-game). Since turning pro, that part of his game has all but disappeared.

In 85 games with Pittsburgh, he has 16 points (0.18 PPG) and in the AHL he had 45 points in 107 games (0.42 PPG). On the bright side, his possession numbers during his time in Pittsburgh have been very strong, especially the past two seasons. On the other hand, he could never find a way to impress Dan Bylsma enough to stick around full-time.

Perhaps fortunately for Despres, Bylsma is gone and Mike Johnston is in. With Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik now in Washington, the Penguins are going to have one hole to fill on the blue line. Christian Ehrhoff should take over where Niskanen left off, but with puck possession becoming a more vital part to playing defense, the opportunity for Despres to make a good impression is there for the taking.

The problem he’s going to face in training camp, however, will come from other young defenseman itchy to make it to Pittsburgh themselves. Olli Maatta showed last season that age is but a number and solid play will help you stick around. It’s that example Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot, and Philip Samuelsson will be looking to follow.

With hefty competition amongst young defenseman and many others likely holding spots down already (Ehrhoff, Maatta, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi), the Pens blue line will be more than worth watching in training camp.

Perhaps fortunately for Despres, everyone will start with a clean slate for the new coach.

It’s Pittsburgh Penguins Day at PHT

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Pittsburgh Penguins

Another year with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime turned into another year without a Stanley Cup.

The Penguins got an MVP season out of Crosby, who was head and shoulders above everyone last season, but wound up getting bumped out in the second round of the playoffs by the New York Rangers. Making matters worse, the Pens had a 3-1 lead in the series until Henrik Lundqvist turned into brick wall.

Crosby struggled in the postseason and not just because of Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky’s heroics. A rumored wrist injury may or may not have slowed him down. He also didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates. Outside of Malkin, Jussi Jokinen, and Matt Niskanen others failed to show up. James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Kris Letang all had lackluster performances.

The Pens got a breakout season from 19-year-old Olli Maatta on defense and managed to dance around a stroke to Letang during the regular season to have a solid year on the blue line. Niskanen’s big season helped soften the blow of losing Letang and Paul Martin was steady as well.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury was steady as anyone putting up a .915 save percentage both in the regular season and playoffs. While he’s always easy to point the finger at when things go south, he wasn’t Pittsburgh’s problem last season. A lack of strong forward depth, especially in the wake of losing Pascal Dupuis for the season, and defensive injuries helped make life a lot harder than it had to be during the season and worse still during the playoffs.

Offseason recap

If was a summer of front office changes for the Pens. Both GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma were sent packing and in came former Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford as well as first-time NHL coach Mike Johnston from the WHL Portland Winterhawks. After bowing out to the New York Rangers, that was the last straw for Penguins ownership.

The Pens also made big changes on the ice as well as they traded Neal to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik bolted for the truly greener pastures of Washington to join the Capitals. They also let Jokinen, Tanner Glass, and Joe Vitale walk in free agency.

Pittsburgh may have made the sneakiest splashes of the offseason landing former Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and former Philadelphia Flyers forward Steve Downie on one-year deals. Blake Comeau, along with Spaling, will also help their bottom six be not as easy to push around.