Penguins notebook: Bylsma benefits from extra time off
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma's work was largely done after practice Tuesday, and he planned to spend part of the rest of the day relaxing — and watching one more video of an Islanders game.
For a coaching staff that easily could be showing signs of stress — the Penguins, after all, have dropped three consecutive playoff series — Bylsma indicated this wasn't the case by shedding some light on his playoff eve plan.
“But it's really going to be a casual watch of the game,” he said.
“We've feverishly spent the last 2 1⁄2 days or longer preparing and getting ready,” he said. “(Tuesday night) is going to be quiet. We're prepared, and now, we are kind of getting ready to open the gates for Game 1.”
In the regular season, when there is less time between games, the coaching staff would have spent the night before seriously watching video.
Bylsma, the 2011 winner of the Jack Adams Award for NHL's best coach, boasts a 28-22 career playoff record though he has lost three straight series after winning his first five.
Trying to counteract the Islanders' speed will be a difficult task for the Penguins, especially in regards to right wing Michael Grabner, who is considered the NHL's fastest skater.
The Penguins' Brenden Morrow wouldn't testify to that assessment, but he did say, “I know I'm not going to catch him.”
Defenseman Mark Eaton, a former Islander, said Grabner has “world-class speed and he knows how to use it. He seems to get a breakaway a game.”
“You don't really have to change your game too much,” he said. “You do have to be aware when he is on the ice, probably be a little more careful as ‘D' men when you have the puck on the blue line and not let him pick it off or have a shot blocked and have him going the other way.”
Niskanen acknowledged that Grabner sometimes “cheats on the offense” to get a jump toward the Penguins' goal.
“But he's pretty smart about it. It seems to work out for him more often than not.”
Grabner has scored a number of important goals in his short career against the Penguins and can be especially dangerous killing penalties, though he produced one shorthanded goal this season.
The other star
Keeping an eye on center John Tavares also will be key.
Tavares received plenty of MVP buzz this season and will have the Penguins' attention.
“I think he has a really high hockey IQ,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “He's not a fast skater, but he's a strong skater. He can find his teammates really well, too.”