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It's A Great Day for Playoff Hockey - Apr. 18

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
It's a Great Day for Playoff Hockey will be tracking the Penguins' Stanley Cup quest with constant updates throughout the postseason.

6:27 PM:
Well, we caught our 2 o'clock flight and arrived in Philadelphia close to 3. After that the team jumped on a bus to the hotel and are free for the night. Before we leave you for the night there were a few notables from the post-practice press conferences that I haven't been able to post unitl now.

Here are some of interim head coach Dan Bylsma's comments.

Bylsma on why he had the team practice Saturday even though they play Sunday afternoon:
"There’s no morning skate (Sunday), that was a factor. There were a couple things we wanted to get done at practice today. That was probably the lightest practice we’ve had since I’ve been here, minus the morning skates. That was even lighter than most morning skates are. We wanted to get on the ice and get focused on some of the things that we want to do for tomorrow’s game so this was our only opportunity."

Bylsma on if he emphasized to his team to try to out-physical the Flyers:
"I don’t think that we came out with the intent of matching what they were going to bring in terms of being physical. We expected them to play the type of hockey that they’ve been successful at this year. In our last 27 games, right from almost the first game, we’ve matched our opponent’s hits. It’s about being aggressive, puck management, playing in the offensive zone and our team has been able to do that. I think it’s part of our identity now. It’s what we bring to games. I think we’ve done a real good job of playing physical but we’ve also done a good job of playing within the rule book as well."

Bylsma on when he likes to play Crosby and Malkin together and why he put Bill Guerin with them:
"At different times, depending on the TV timeout situations and at the end of games, there are opportunities to double shift guys and get different lineups out there. I had that opportunity with Malkin and Crosby. Billy Guerin promised us before the playoffs that he’d have a shooters mentality and that’s why he went on that wing. He got the opportunity and it was a much needed goal for our club."

Bylsma on what has surprised him most about Guerin since he arrived in Pittsburgh:
"I heard a lot of good things about Billy, especially off the ice and in the (locker) room. I knew him a little bit, very little, but a little bit. I think the biggest surprise - and surprise is not a great word - is that whether it’s in team meetings, in between periods, on the bench, or a day like today for practice, he says the right thing, does the right thing and acts the right way. For a 38-year-old guy that could easily say, ‘I don’t want to go to practice today. It’s 20 minutes on the ice. Do we really need it?’ He was the first guy to say, ‘Great, let’s go.’ It’s hard for anybody else to take a different direction when that guy is saying and doing those things. That’s a huge benefactor for us in the room."

Bylsma on Petr Sykora:
"I’ve been very pleased with his (play in) Game 1 and 2. He’s been good defensively, responsible, tracking back. He’s been responsible with the puck, managing it the right way. He had a couple quality scoring chances that could be the difference in the game. When we got to overtime, there was more than one person in the building that thought he might be the guy that get’s it. That’s what he brings to our team. I think he’s played well. His game has risen in a lot of different areas. Petr’s the type of guy that will come up with a big goal for you. That’s what he does for us."

And I'll leave with a note from Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury on his game-saving toe save on Jeff Carter:
"I saw it on the TV today. It was OK. I was a little bit lucky because he still had some net to shoot at. I’m just happy it didn’t go in."

11:43 AM:
And today's Gatorade server is interim head coach Dan Bylsma. Gotta run to open locker room and then a flight to Philadelphia. I'll check back from the City of Brotherly Love.

11:39 AM:
The final three shooters are Sergei Gonchar, Dan Bylsma, Tom Fitzgerald and Evgeni Malkin. Oh the drama.

11:32 AM:
Shootout time. Rob Scuderi was the goat yesterday. Let's see who will be serving Gatorade today.

11:19 AM:
Since interim head coach Dan Bylsma arrived in Pittsburgh, the Penguins conduct many gimmicks during practice to keep things fun. One such gimmick is prior to a team "strategy" huddle.

When Bylsma wants his team to congregate around the diagram board at center ice to discuss strategy or to go over a designed play, he blows the whistle. That sound triggers a Pavlovian response from the 23 Penguins on the ice and they immediately skate as fast as they can to center ice. The last player to get to the huddle must skate a quick lap around the rink while his teammates jokingly jeer him (goalies are excluded from the exercise for obvious reasons).

Anyways, for as fast as Tyler Kennedy is, he also seems to lose this contest. With his speed you would think he'd naturally be the first one there. I may never figure this one out.

Author: Sam Kasan

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