Tag: strategy

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two

Bylsma: “We’ve got to be a tougher team to play against”


Earlier tonight, PHT asked readers who’s the most to blame for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ precarious 2-0 deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers after tonight’s 8-5 loss. If you ask a good chunk of Penguins players, it seems like they’d put a check mark in the “defense” category.

Brooks Orpik didn’t pull punches when discussing the tough game with Ray Fittipaldo.

“It’s execution, realizing what we’re doing wrong. We have to execute better,” Orpik said. “They’re taking advantage of every mistake we’re making. We’re hanging our goalie out to dry, that’s for sure.”

Orpik was blunt, yet he didn’t really give much of an indication regarding how the Penguins might “execute better.” Head coach Dan Bylsma provides the headline quote “We’ve got to be a tougher team to play against” to Seth Rorabaugh, but Jordan Staal was probably the most specific when he discussed what might be an important consideration.

“The game has been too open,” Staal said. “They’re a very fast team and they jump on opportunities when they can.”

Staal indirectly brings up an interesting thought that’s been bubbling up more and more lately: are the Penguins playing into Philly’s hands by trading blows? Sure, Pittsburgh lead the NHL in scoring during the regular season, but the Penguins have shown an ability to grind out ugly wins quite often the last couple years. Perhaps Pittsburgh should muck things up as if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t in the lineup, then?

It’s an awkward thought, but when you’re down 2-0 via two grueling losses, it’s probably time for some brutal self-assessment.

Penguins focus on improving defense, patience

Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke

When you have a roster littered with stars and semi-stars, it’s easy to get seduced into the siren call of a “track meet” style game. Still, it seems that has burned the Pittsburgh Penguins here and there – most notably in an upset loss against the New York Islanders on Tuesday – prompting the team to reassess their game plan, as Brooks Orpik and others told The Associated Press.

“I think you fall into a trap,” Orpik said. “I think especially when you get away with it for a few games. It starts snowballing and you get on a roll and you think it’s going to keep happening.”

“We’ve got to be willing to win 2-0 instead of 6-4, 7-4. When you play good teams it’s tough to win when you play that wide open.”

Even with the Penguins’ treasure trove of talent, the postseason can often be an unfriendly place for high-scoring, loose styles. NHL officials have already resisted calling obstruction penalties more and more as the last few seasons have gone on and that’s only likely to increase as the playoffs come along – which is bad news if Pittsburgh expects to light up the scoreboard.

The good news for that bunch is they’ve been there plenty times before and certainly have shown the ability to grind out ugly wins with Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup.

It’s a mild bummer to say this from an entertainment standpoint, but they might just want to take that star-free mindset into the playoffs despite being chock-full of marquee talent.

2011 NHL RDO Camp: Dan Bylsma, Bruce Boudreau discuss icing on the penalty kill

Dan Bylsma

The 2011 NHL Research Development and Orientation Camp is something of a mad science lab, with 30 NHL prospects and two NHL head coaches on hand to test all the variables and hypotheses. One of the more interesting and derisive concepts would be incredibly punitive for penalty kills: what if a shorthanded team could receive an icing call?

That’s one of the rules that is being put to the test today, so leave it to Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to make a bold move to try to take advantage of it. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reveals that Bylsma pulled his goalie when his team earned a power play late in the second period of the test game to try to capitalize on the opposing penalty kill’s inability to ice the puck. This essentially created a 6-on-4 advantage with a significant risk since an accurate clear from the shorthanded side could find its way into the power play unit’s open net. Rosen reports that the tactic backfired because the shorthanded team got the puck out of the zone and created a 2-on-1.

Obviously, this is a testing ground so the stakes are much lower. Bylsma joked about the situation, saying “I’m fired.”

Bylsma wasn’t the only inventive coach who had some interesting feedback about that strategy. Washington Capitals bench boss Bruce Boudreau said that he would tell his penalty killers to risk an icing call if the other team had an empty net and also stated that icing the puck would remain a common strategy on the PK, even with the added drawbacks.

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who was sitting in the stands here watching it all unfold, understood Bylsma’s tactic and didn’t mind the risk, but if he were coaching the shorthanded team he would have told them to fire the puck down the ice regardless of the potential for icing being called and the ensuing faceoff coming back into his defensive zone.

“I’m going to try for the free goal,” Boudreau told NHL.com. “Shoot it down and take your chances.”


Even though the shorthanded team would not be allowed to make a line change if they’re called for icing, he feels the break between the whistle and the ensuing faceoff is long enough to give the players on the ice a breather.

“When you’re under pressure and you’re shorthanded, I don’t think it will stop you from icing the puck because you’ve got to get it out of the zone,” Boudreau said. “That’s the No. 1 thing.”

I pondered the merits of icing on the PK a bit last summer, but I ultimately believe that it would be an excessive punishment for shorthanded squads. What’s your take, though? Would you like to see that rule implemented or not? Either way, I wouldn’t expect many coaches to take the risk in the situation Bylsma was in during R & D camp today – and that would include Bylsma himself.