"It's up to the players," coach Michel Therrien said. "There's a price to pay to win games on the road and right now we're having a hard time staying focused and executing."
February 15th, 2009 – The Pittsburgh Penguins are 27-25-5 with 59 points – They are 5 points out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference with 25 games remaining. The players looked like they had given up on the season, something had to give.
“We believe we need a change in direction and, with 25 games remaining in the regular season, our goal remains to finish strong and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Shero said. “Dan Bylsma is one of the bright young coaches in the game and has done an exceptional job as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
Ray Shero pulls the trigger and fires Michel Therrien. Dan Bylsma (I know, everyone was asking “Who??”) is promoted from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton club to coach the Penguins. Tom Fitzgerald replaces Andre Savard, who is reassigned to another position with the club.
I am not telling you anything that you didn’t already know at this point…
Show of hands, how many people thought that this move was a joke on Feb. 15th? Feb 16th? How about now?
April 7th, 2009 – The Penguins are 43-28-9 95 points and no lower than 7th in the Conference.
They have gone 16-3-4 under Dan Bylsma that is a 36 point turn around. If the Pens can get wins against an Islanders team that is dead in the water and a Canadiens team that is minus two of its top players in Andre Markov and Mattheiu Schnieder, they can finish the regular season with 99 points. 40 points in 25 games? Are you kidding me?
Nobody could have predicted that Dan Bylsma would be able to right the ship and get the Penguins not only in to the playoffs, but playing some of the most spirited hockey we have seen for a while in Pittsburgh…
This team has gelled through adversity and become stronger (in my opinion) than the one that skated off the Mellon Arena Ice June 4th 2008.
You have to love the chances in the Playoffs – with the likely first round matchup being against either New Jersey or Washington.
At the very least, a matchup against Washington would be pure gold for the NHL and TV – If you can get the 3 biggest stars in the NHL in one series? That has to be good for the game. Plus, Sid and Geno can finally prove on a national stage that they are both better all around players than Ovechkin.
The Penguins seem to have Martin Brodeur’s number as of late, with 13 different Pens picking up points last game, a 6-1 rout of the Devils on April 1st.
The X-Factor in all of this is definitely Philadelphia – they trail the Devils by 5 points, but still have 3 games left compared to 2 for the Devils. They could end up winning the division and sneaking in to the 3 spot. A series between the Pens and Flyers could be brutal for both teams in the first round as the winner of the series may end up being too banged up to make it much further in the playoffs. I am going to give you my predictions for the Eastern Conference playoff matchups:
(1)Boston Vs. (8)Montreal - The tables have turned from last year – Montreal will not be as upset minded as Boston last year.
Boston in 5, maybe 4
(2)Washington vs. (7)Florida – Florida gets the better of Washington in the season finale and it carries over to the first round as Florida stuns Washington in 6.
(3)New Jersey vs (6)Pittsburgh – The Penguins win the series in 5 with home ice at both arenas.
(4)Philadelphia vs (5) Carolina – This series is going to be brutal – these are 2 teams that nobody wants to face and they are going to face each other. I have to give the edge to Philadelphia because of the home ice.
Philly in 7
(1)Boston vs (7)Florida – Cinderella’s clock strikes midnight in this series as Washington may roll over for the Panthers, but the rats aren’t going to hit the ice much against the Bruins.
Bruins in 5
(4)Philadelphia vs (6) Pittsburgh – Another Keystone State matchup that will live up to the hype. Philadelphia will be worn out from their series against Carolina and the Pens will squeak by in 6 games.
(1)Boston vs (6) Pittsburgh – check back later for my thoughts on this one.