PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s ears perked up the other night while he was watching a scouting tape in advance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
An announcer was discussing the most successful U.S.-born coaches in the NHL, and he mentioned Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers and John Tortorella of the New York Rangers. Both coached teams that won the Stanley Cup -- Tortorella with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2004 and Laviolette two years later with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Left out of the discussion? Bylsma, who didn’t take over until midseason in 2008-09 yet coached the Penguins to a seven-game Stanley Cup Final series win against the Detroit Red Wings.
An unintended slight? Perhaps. A bit of a motivator for Bylsma? Perhaps that, too.
"I was disappointed not being mentioned in the commentator's comments about American coaches," Bylsma said. "But that's part of the game."
And a Bylsma vs. Laviolette coaching matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is bound to contain some coaching gamesmanship, too.
Bylsma said Laviolette deserves all the praise he has gotten during a season in which the Flyers withstood the offseason departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and the influx of a half-dozen rookies to finish with 103 points, the sixth-most in the League.
"They play a consistent game," said Bylsma, whose team won 51 games -- the second-most in Penguins history. "I think their team has a real identity, which isn't the old Flyers identity, but a real good identity. This team in particular, they talk about (Claude) Giroux and (Jaromir) Jagr. Their power play has been a factor, but this is a team that does it throughout their lineup. They keep coming at you and they play well throughout their lineup. They’ve dealt with injuries."
Bylsma added, "He (Laviolette) is going to have matchups that he goes after and these things are important for his team. You'll see their team go after those. He's also a coach that does a good job of adjusting his team and their mindset. I have a lot of respect for Peter as a coach for what he’s done -- regardless of the name calling."
Bylsma was referring to Laviolette's comment after an April 1 game against the Pens that Bylsma was "gutless" for putting out his toughest players against the Flyers' Danny Briere line late in Philadelphia's 6-4 victory in Pittsburgh. During that shift, Penguins center Joe Vitale put a clean but hard hit on Briere, who went on to miss the final three regular season games with a back contusion that caused back spasms.