Penguins coach Bylsma will buck tradition with goaltender Fleury
VOORHEES, N.J. — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma doesn't usually converse with Marc-Andre Fleury before games. Goalies are a different breed, and leaving them alone with their thoughts is a coaching tradition that Bylsma generally follows.
Not this time. Not when times are this desperate, and not when Fleury's thoughts are consumed by negativity.
"I will be speaking with him," Bylsma said Monday, an off-day for the Penguins during Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "As we go forward here, I think it's imperative that if we are going to scratch back in the series and get in this thing, it's going to be on the strength of Marc-Andre Fleury in our net."
Bylsma was quick to point out that the Penguins' goal-prevention issues against the Philadelphia Flyers are not all traceable to Fleury.
"I also know that, the situation he's in, is there's 18 guys in front of him that haven't been there, to a man, for him in some difficult situations," Bylsma said.
But he also acknowledged that "The Flower" has wilted badly this spring.
"So that conversation will happen," Bylsma said. "How we regroup and how we come back and play • (it's) not just Marc-Andre Fleury, but certainly we need the strength of him going forward in the next four games."
For the second consecutive day, Bylsma referenced the Penguins having "four more games" in this series. Only three teams in NHL history — the 1942 Maple Leafs, '75 Islanders and 2010 Flyers — have come back from a three-game deficit to win a series.
Many of the Penguins believe the two-day break in between Games 3 and 4 can be a blessing.
"The longer," right wing Pascal Dupuis said, "the better."
The Flyers, though, don't seem likely to let up.
"It's irrelevant," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said about the delay before Game 4. "It's irrelevant. It's irrelevant. It's irrelevant. We will focus on practice (Tuesday) and then the game. That's all."
No team coming back from a three-game deficit has been battered quite like the Penguins. Fleury has allowed 17 goals through three games, which is one shy of the NHL record for goals allowed in the first three games of a series.
"We still have hope," said defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who has consistently stated this season that he considers Fleury the NHL's finest goalie. "We believe in him."
Fleury has bounced back from gruesome performances in the past. He was yanked in Game 5 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit, only to rebound with two marvelous performances in consecutive 2-1 victories to win the Stanley Cup.
Now, a more daunting task — "A huge mountain," center Jordan Staal called it — faces Fleury and the Penguins.
"It has been done before," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Yeah, we know it's going to be tough. But we're never going to go down without playing our best game. We've got the guys to do it."