Kovacevic: Bylsma better have answers
TribLIVE Sports Videos
BOSTON — Get a good look at the Penguins who take the ice Friday night for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final.
Get a good look at Jarome Iginla in a Pittsburgh sweater. Brenden Morrow, too. Douglas Murray. On the more painful end, Pascal Dupuis. And on the more once-unthinkable end, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang and … eh, I won't even type the other name.
Get a good look behind the bench, too.
Because if the Bruins manage to produce the same result in the same manner as the series' first three games, be sure that the hardest questions of all once this is done will be aimed at Dan Bylsma.
Not necessarily from me or you, but from the folks whose vote counts.
And be equally sure he'll need to present better answers than what he and his team have shown on the ice so far.
The following answer came Thursday from Bylsma, in response to a question from the Trib's Rob Rossi regarding the importance of the rest of this series to job status: “I have never coached for my job. I came here in '09 to win hockey games. That is where we're at now.”
Right. Winning hockey games. Four in a row, actually.
Bylsma gets fired?
Maybe just his assistants, Tony Granato and/or Todd Reirden?
Look, I wrote in this space a couple days before the Stanley Cup playoffs began that Bylsma enjoyed the unconditional backing of Ray Shero and the rest of the Penguins' higher-ups. And I wasn't guessing. It was expressed in the strongest imaginable terms.
But things change. More knowledge builds through more games and, yeah, more emotion. One can only imagine what Mario Lemieux is thinking right now, but he's visible enough that it doesn't take much to see he's fuming. Takes even less effort to see that in Shero, though he isn't talking, either.
I'm of the view that the brunt of blame for this debacle — and when these players muster all of two goals in 11 periods, you're safely into debacle territory — is on the best players, who have been anything but.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have zero points. James Neal, despite a personal shooting gallery in Game 3, has just as many. So does Iginla. So does Letang, along with sharing the ice with the Bruins for 7 of their past 11 goals. These guys just aren't getting it done. If a team attempts a total of 76 shots — including misses — and puts only one puck behind Tuukka Rask over nearly five periods, I'm not thinking, gee, the coach's scheme is really messed up.
I also wouldn't ignore that the breakouts, including the much-maligned stretch pass, have worked well enough for the most part, and the faceoff performance — thanks in large part to a switch by the coaches — has swung violently in their favor.
That said, the single most striking — albeit unofficial — statistic of this series is that this team has, by my count, registered three official shots directly off rebounds.
To review: Crosby had that fat rebound in Game 1 he slapped right into Rask's chest, and Craig Adams and Matt Cooke had one each in Game 3.
And the glaring reason is that, once in the Boston zone, rather than simply gunning and going to the net — picture an armada of Tyler Kennedy clones — they've insanely tried to Mario their way through four boxed-in Bruins, including Zdeno Chara and his 75-foot stick.
That's on the coach.
Even if Bylsma is urging his players to the contrary, if that message isn't resonating, you'd better believe that's the coach's responsibility, too.
So is the stubborn unwillingness to make changes that seem so fantastically obvious:
Does Bylsma really not see how uncomfortable Iginla has looked on the left side?
Does he really think an 0-for-12 power play wouldn't benefit from the tiniest tweak in either personnel or strategy.
Does he really not grasp how Paul Martin could help?
Does he really not see that his alleged net-front presence guy, Chris Kunitz, parks himself everywhere but the front of the net?
That's on the coach.
I'm not ready to bury Bylsma, and I might not be even if the Bruins sweep. He's a smart coach with sound ideas, he's done some innovating with faceoff plays and puck retrieval that other NHL coaches have mimicked, and he still has the locker room on his side. Don't doubt that latter one.
But answers are needed, and nothing would begin that process more pointedly than a victory or two or four right about now.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Officials dissent on whether offices can prohibit, charge to photograph public record documents
- Ex-Steelers QB Batch creates sports medicine startup at Pitt
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Crosby understands rule prohibiting him from playing, stresses he is hurt
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- WVU frat pledge had fatal blood alcohol level more than 6 times above state legal limit
- Allegheny County assistant public defender charged for allegedly lying to court staff
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores gets house arrest for tax evasion
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- Pitt expecting to see zone defense on the road against Virginia Tech
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff