Penguins' players: Don't blame Bylsma

Sunday, 06.09.2013 / 6:41 PM
Chris Adamski  - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- If Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma's star has fallen somewhat on the heels of four consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff flameouts to lower-seeded opponents, he has no shortage of support within his own locker room.

After the No. 1 seed Penguins managed two goals in being swept out of the Eastern Conference Final by the Boston Bruins last week, speculation ramped up that Pittsburgh would consider a coaching change.

Bylsma said Sunday that he had yet to discuss his performance or future with general manager Ray Shero. But as the Penguins congregated as a group for the final time this season in their dressing room Sunday, many commended the job Bylsma and his staff have done and exonerated them from any of the blame of the shocking series sweep against the Bruins.

"We were well-prepared, and I think as players we appreciate everything the coaches do to make us ready to play," captain Sidney Crosby said. "They give us every opportunity to be successful, they communicate well with everyone. ... Whether they've been here a while or just came here recently, I think everyone will tell you we all feel pretty fortunate to have that group."

Indeed, there wasn't a player who spoke negatively Sunday about Bylsma or assistants Tony Granato, Todd Reirden and Gilles Meloche.

"They're great," defenseman Douglas Murray said. "They get us prepared more than you can ask for and have great communication and they show the players respect. That's what you want. You couldn't ask for anything more."

Bylsma guided the Penguins to the Stanley Cup four months after being promoted from coaching the organization's American Hockey League affiliate in February 2009.

The only man in the 46-year history of the franchise to start and end four consecutive seasons as the team's coach, Bylsma has a 201-93-25 career regular-season record and was the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 200 victories.

But between the 2009 Stanley Cup and a 4-2 series victory against the New York Islanders in this season's conference quarterfinals, Bylsma's teams won one of four playoff series. The Penguins scored two goals in the series against the Bruins. Last season, they allowed 30 in a first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Some questioned Bylsma's handling of NHL Trade Deadline acquisition Jarome Iginla, who spent the final two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the Penguins' third line and not on the team's top power play. Iginla, who has 530 career goals, was used mostly on the left wing despite spending virtually all of his previous 16 NHL seasons on the right side.

But Bylsma has remained popular with his players. The 42-year-old has developed a reputation as a players' coach, and his aggressive, puck-possession style is a favorite among skilled players.

"Coach is unbelievable," wing James Neal said. "Everyone is always in the right places and right spots.

"You need the bounces -- you need everything -- to go your way to win, and we just didn't get them. It definitely doesn't feel like we went out in four games like that. It's hard to say why right now, but looking back on it and going over it, the coaches definitely have done the right things."

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