Kovacevic: It's Bylsma's move now
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Forget the Penguins' total flat-liner of a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia, if you hadn't already by sundown Sunday. The outcome meant little, and the sideshow that followed meant less.
There's no point fretting over blowing home ice for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not with the Flyers still undefeated at Consol Energy Center. You'd rather see Games 1 and 2 in the Civic Arena rubble than on this side of Centre Avenue.
No point fussing over Peter Laviolette's freak-out, either.
In a final-minute show of what might well have been manufactured rage, Philadelphia's coach reacted to Joe Vitale's textbook hipcheck on Daniel Briere and an ensuing center-ice brawl like a petulant 7-year-old: He smashed a stick, finger-pointed the Penguins' bench and — in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle orange and black — twice described the Penguins' staff as "gutless" for deploying the fourth line late in a lopsided game.
The Flyers behaving boorishly is about as newsworthy as Cup-free summers on the other end of the commonwealth.
No, the most important takeaway here for the home side should have been this hard realization: These fast, furious and more-skilled-than-most-think Flyers are very much a threat to outskate, outsmart and ultimately outlast the Penguins in the first round if Dan Bylsma and his staff don't make major — and yes, gutsy — adjustments.
Here are five:
1. Leave the lines alone
The only line Bylsma left unchanged through this game - and in recent weeks — was Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz. There's no reason that shouldn't also be true for Sidney Crosby, who had four wingers in addition to semi-regular linemates Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis in the first period alone.
I raised the issue with Bylsma, and he replied that "there's probably a little bit of a misconception that I mix and match," adding that special teams can force his hand. But he used 13 combinations in the Penguins' previous meeting with the Flyers and 11 in this one.
If Bylsma is going to ream out his players for a lack of cohesiveness, as he did last week at practice, he needs to do his part.
2. Um, Letang on point?
Kris Letang returned from missing three games to injury, but he remained conspicuously missing from the power play, as Bylsma stuck with his talented by terribly non-functional five-forward formation.
If that seems nuts, consider that Bylsma afterward vowed to continue the five-forward plan "into the playoffs," while getting "Kris into the mix."
If that's not a bluff, it borders on madness.
3. Malkin up front
On one power play Sunday, the NHL's leading scorer touched the puck exactly twice. Both times, he was 100-plus feet from the net, lugging the puck to the red line to let others do the offensive work.
To whom should Laviolette send the thank-you card if this persists into playoffs?
Malkin on the half-wall brought a 26 percent success rate. This isn't complex.
4. Stop the stretch
The Flyers, like most opponents during this 2-4 funk, stretched out the Penguins in the neutral zone by sending a forward behind the defense. That forced one defenseman to backpedal early — looked like Zbynek Michalek got started an hour before faceoff — leaving the middle of the ice open for an easy breakout and, all too often, an odd-man break.
Max Talbot, formerly of the Penguins, acknowledged the Flyers picked up the flaw in video study: "You look at things."
There isn't an easy answer. If Bylsma brings a forward back into the neutral zone, that takes away the Penguins' natural aggressiveness.
The best remedy is the one Bylsma has been advocating: Stop recklessly forfeiting possession when deep in the attacking zone.
That was Michalek's response, too: "We all just need to manage the puck better."
5. Adjust, adjust, adjust
Bylsma and his staff deserve all the praise sent their way over the years, but no one can charge them with being adept at changing on the fly. That's been obvious in failures to adjust to disciplined opponents such as the New Jersey Devils, and it was most glaring in the first-round loss last season to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Anyone remember the Statue of Liberty power play?
That's the one where the participants barely budged from their perimeter positions, the Lightning stood in the box and wiggled their sticks and, before long, the Penguins were hitting the links.
Time to get moving.
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.
- Penguins’ protracted slump continues with 5-2 loss at Carolina
- Police end standoff with New Kensington man
- Pittsburgh angles to keep Heinz headquarters in merger
- Trib Cup: North Allegheny, Blackhawk, Seton-La Salle, Vincentian lead winter standings
- New Kensington-Arnold School Board superintendent hangs on as board vote falls short
- Geibel softball excited for return after 4-year hiatus
- Connellsville-area group shares photos, stories, legacy
- Harrison rape suspect awaiting trial accused of sexual contact with 6-year-old
- Kiski Area Intermediate School band chosen to play at state conference
- Cops nab Donora assault suspect
- Soccer career continues for Springdale grad Weimerskirch