Prisuta: Pens have championship blueprint
TribLIVE Sports Videos
They're headed back to the Stanley Cup final, but this time they won't arrive wide-eyed.
This time, the Penguins will be bringing with them the mindset of a defending champion.
No, the Penguins didn't win the Cup a year ago.
But since losing it, they've done what turned out to be the next best thing.
They've adopted the philosophy of the NHL's reigning champions, the Detroit Red Wings.
It's a philosophy shared by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who not long ago shared a coach-player relationship in Anaheim.
It stresses going to the net and getting pucks on the net and repeating those two things as often as possible.
If you can do so with world-class talent, as the Red Wings and Penguins can, so much the better.
But getting to the net and getting shots on the net, preferably with traffic in front, matters much more than who's doing the driving, shooting or screening.
Recall what Babcock had to say about why he believes what he believes prior to last season's final against the Penguins:
"All those goals you score in November tic-tac-toeing the puck around you don't score at this time of the year. Guys are too buckled down and they're back-checking too hard and they're in the right spot too much (defensively).
"And the goalies are too good. I don't know if you've noticed the size of them, you can't even see the net. A lot of guys, you can't even score on them in practice, they're so good.
"So how are you going to score• Well, if you're not going to score on the first shot you have to score on the second shot. The only way to get a second shot is to shoot the first shot and someone be there for the second shot.
"To me, it's just doing the math."
Throw a "net-front presence" in there somewhere and the quote would just as easily be attributable to Bylsma any day since his arrival Feb. 15.
His Penguins have seemingly been true believers ever since a 5-0 road trip from Feb. 27 through March 8 apparently convinced them the new guy was onto something.
Their embracing of and devotion to Babcock/Bylsma Hockey brought them from the depths of disaster to the brink of a championship.
But in taking their final steps back to the Cup final, the Penguins established that they're also capable of improvising victory if need be.
One such method is to fall back upon a wrap-around, spin-around, top-shelf backhand when all else fails, as Evgeni Malkin did in Game 2 against the Hurricanes.
Another is to scrap and claw and find just enough opportunities in transition despite being outshot for the first time in the series (31-25), despite allowing a series-high four power-play opportunities, and even though Malkin and Sidney Crosby combine for one shot and no goals; all of that happened in Game 4.
Still, when they're at their best, these Penguins are more relentless than they are dramatic or resourceful.
The genius of their plan is its simplicity.
That's something the Penguins gained firsthand knowledge of a year ago against the Red Wings.
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.
- Sestito ready to fight for job on Penguins
- Crosby’s off-ice life hardly reflects that of a superstar
- Penguins defenseman Oleksy brings nasty streak, toughness
- Penguins’ Johnston: Kessel, Crosby likely to open season together
- Pens GM: Sundqvist did not have surgery
- Ex-Penguin Kennedy skates with former teammates, hopes to catch on with a team
- Penguins’ ‘new practice rink’ a multi-faceted sight to see
- For Penguins’ Dupuis, resuming career a risky business