NHL Insider: Bylsma hopes seven-game scenario during regular season helped Pens
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Dan Bylsma had Tuesday night in mind last summer.
That is when Bylsma, obsessed with better preparing the Penguins after losses to lower-seeded opponents in three consecutive playoff series, decided to play the regular season in seven-game segments.
In the past, Bylsma had segmented the regular-season into 10-game blocks in which he challenged players to achieve team goals — for example, 90 percent on the penalty kill — over that span.
A Stanley Cup playoff series is a best-of-seven affair, and Bylsma sought to drive that point home this past season.
“As we went through the season, we were in these scenarios,” Bylsma said after an optional practice Monday.
“We made note of every Game 7 we played, every Game 1. When a situation arose where we were playing Game 3 on the road, it was, ‘That's how it's going to be in the playoffs.' So playing Game 3 on the road in a tough building ... it wasn't the first time we had done that in our minds.”
The Penguins, of course, won Game 3 — the real one — on the road Sunday afternoon. They carry a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.
For what it is worth, during the regular season they went 1-1 when taking a 2-1 lead into a Game 4-like situation.
Bylsma is not the first coach to try this seven-game approach in season. Jacques Martin used it when he ran the bench for the Ottawa Senators.
Had there been a full 82 games during the regular season, Bylsma likely would not have started the seven-game segmentation until the second half of the season. He said going with the approach over 82 games might have given players a reason to tune out the message.
The message was received, veteran forward Craig Adams said Monday. He noted the Penguins' overwhelming success in their regular-season series.
The Penguins played six seven-game and a six-game series during the regular season. They won each series — sweeping four, and taking one apiece in five, six and seven games.