Dan Bylsma has walked down the hall at Mellon Arena to get advice from Mario Lemieux. The Pittsburgh Penguins coach has talked to some of Lemieux's old teammates from the early 1990s, talked to a handful of players and coaches from the Islanders' dynasty teams in the early 1980s, and even polled today's players who either have done it or tried to do it.
When it comes to figuring out what it's going to be like for the Pittsburgh Penguins to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, Bylsma has done his homework and yet he still isn't sure he's gotten enough information, or if that information is even out there to begin with.
"I can honestly tell you I sought out a lot of advice during the summer about this year, and I know (Red Wings coach) Mike Babcock sought out advice after we went to the Final in Anaheim (in 2003)," said Bylsma, whose team will embark on its repeat journey next week. "I can tell you there is not a real good book on what it's going to be like in the playoffs. There is not a distinct look from one person saying this is how it's going to be."
So how does Bylsma think it's going to be for his Penguins?
"I think we're going to draw upon the experience we had in the past, and I don't just mean last year when we won," he said. "This group, most of these guys have been to the playoffs for three straight years. That experience will be drawn upon and we know it's going to be ratcheted up, what the buildings are going to be like, and there are going to be ups and downs. We know teams that win don't win every game and there is a certain amount of dealing with those situations. There is also a confidence in how your team plays, how you need to play to have success, and we had that confidence last year. We anticipate all that, but we also know we have to be ready for the ups and downs in a game."
Bylsma isn't so sure about the last part.
He hasn't been happy with his team's consistency this season because he doesn't feel the Penguins have played the way they wanted to play -- "gotten to our game," Bylsma called it -- enough times and it's burned them against the better teams.
Pittsburgh is a combined 0-8-2 against New Jersey and Washington this season and just 3-13-4 against the nine teams ranked ahead of them in the overall NHL standings as of Wednesday. If the current standings hold up through Sunday, the Penguins again would be lined up to play Washington in the second round.
"Are we happy with our mindset? No, not entirely," Bylsma said. "Do we know how we need to play? Yes, but we have not gotten to the consistency we know we're going to need. Our challenge going into the last three games is that's where we need to go."
Bylsma said the Penguins must ramp up their level of urgency, of desperation, in these last three regular-season games, all of which are against non-playoff teams -- the Islanders twice and the Thrashers.
"We know what it is and we know what it means and that level has to happen. Levels have to rise," Bylsma said. "We haven't been great at getting to it so far this season. That urgency level is going to come, but the question is, are we going to be a team that can draw from our past and get to that level?"
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