Sutter finding his way in first postseason
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma recognizes there is more than one way to treat a player experiencing Stanley Cup playoff pressure for the first time.
“Some players, you like to tell them the playoffs are going to be at a much higher level and it's going to be amped up ... and it's going to be a bigger grind,” he said. “And some players, you probably like to tell them the games are no different. Obviously, they have more meaning, and the lights are brighter, but it's the same game.”
With center Brandon Sutter, Bylsma chose a third way: He let him figure it out on his own.
“I think in the first series for Brandon against the Islanders, he found out a little bit about playoff hockey,” Bylsma said.
“The intensity of it, the ups and downs, the emotions of winning hockey games and losing hockey games. The big game in Game 5 (when he won 67 percent of his faceoffs), Game 6 (when he won only 28 percent), all those things you learn.”
Sutter played 286 games in four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-09 through 2011-12 without a trip to the playoffs. After being traded to Pittsburgh last offseason, he finds himself immersed in an 11-game postseason that already is nearly one-fourth as long as the abbreviated 2013 regular season.
The top-seeded Penguins will resume their postseason journey this week in the Eastern Conference final against the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins. Games 1 and 2 will be at Consol Energy Center, though no times and dates have been announced.
Sutter led the Penguins with two goals in three regular-season games against the Bruins.
Whenever the series begins, Bylsma said Sutter will have a lofty standard to maintain.
“He has played his best hockey of the year in the postseason,” he said.
Left wing Matt Cooke has watched the evolution of his linemate's game.
“I felt like in the Islanders series, it was tough at times (for Sutter) just with the heightened intensity,” he said. “I thought he has adapted well, winning faceoffs. I enjoy playing with him. He makes my job easy, forechecking, creating some havoc that way.”
Sutter has been on the ice for only two of the 28 postseason goals scored against the Penguins. He had a goal in Game 4 and an assist in Game 5 against the Islanders but was scoreless in the five-game Senators series.
He has played a clean game. Sutter, who was called for four penalty minutes in the regular season, is one of only eight NHL players with none in 11 or more playoff games.
“You can't treat it any differently,” he said of the playoffs. “You have to play the same way. Obviously, the intensity cranks up a bit, but you want to do the same things.
“The first couple games of the playoffs I thought I played pretty well. Then, a couple I feel I didn't play so well. Since then, I felt a little more consistency. I'm trying not to get too wound up in the emotions of it.”