Watching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin trying to stickhandle their way through Boston’s smothering defense only to be rejected again and again offered the perfect allegory to their failings. Right to the end, the Penguins thought talent would win out. The Bruins were a team that thought team would win out.
I’m on the record as saying Dan Bylsma should have addressed his team’s lack of composure in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, but that failing shouldn’t cost him his job. But after watching last night, I’m not so sure. The Pens were a more competitive team in Games 3 and 4, tighter defensively, better on the draw, and spent more time with the puck. But even when facing elimination, Bylsma crafted no ambitious counterattack, showed little creativity with his lines, and failed to curb the urges of Crosby and Malkin to try to save the season all by themselves.
Dan Bylsma is a good coach, but he lacked the imagination to win even a single game in this series. If someone has to pay the price for this debacle, it’s probably him.
Yep. This is the Penguins' most significant downfall. With the identity that we've created with these superstar players, and this goes back to our failures in the 90's as well, the team has always leaned too much on individual players carrying us and not nearly enough on the whole group of guys playing well as a team. Crosby might have been able to split the defense and score that spectacular goal in Game 5 against the Isles, but when you're facing a team like Boston, you gotta realize that sort of play is highly unlikely and you have to have a much stronger emphasis on playing well as a team on both ends of the ice and leaning a whole lot less on individual players coming up with big plays. This is something that I really doubt Dan Bylsma recognized and worked on.
This is evident with Crosby and Malkin against Boston, but even more so with Letang. For Letang to have jumped up on the play in the offensive zone on the first shift of the game in Game 2, leaving Crosby to play a bouncing puck on the point is just flat out unacceptable. That falls on Bylsma because he doesn't have control of his players. How do you allow Letang to do that in a scoreless game against such a highly disciplined team when you've already lost the first game?
I think Shero will have to be patient with Letang. His contract talks will dictate his future here. You can shop him around and get a #1 dman in return, but I think he's too talented to let go of and he's still a relatively young player who can learn to play the right way. Fleury has two more years on his contract so he will probably get one more year since we have Vokoun locked up anyway for next year as well, thankfully! Although I wouldn't put it past Shero to ship out both of those guys and somehow get us a fantastic return.
But obviously Bylsma does not deserve one more year. He has to go and we need to find a guy who can deal with our superstar players and get them to play a team game first when the going gets tough. Bylsma was outcoached last year by Laviolette and embarrassed this year by Claude Julien. I hope Shero doesn't wait around to do the inevitable, but more importantly, it's time to address this team's identity so we can have skill players realize that their hero mentality and individual play will not work come playoff time.