The first five games of the Dan Bylsma era

By the numbers:

Record: 3-1-1

 --That's 7 out of a possible 10 points.  If a team earned points at that rate, they'd have 114 points in an 82 game season.  Unfortunately, you don't get to play 40% of your games against the Islanders so maybe we'll file that under the "it's too early" category for now.

 

Goals for per game: 3.00

Goals against per game: 3.00 (note: doesn't count the "goal" the NHL awards for winning a shootout)

 --Call it a wash, 15 up and 15 down....The Pens have won one goal games against Philly, Montreal and NYI and lost a blowout to Washington.  Still, at this point it's better than losing three close games and winning one blowout.

 

Power play: 3/19 (15.8%)

Penalty kill: 12/15 (80%)

 --The Washington game again is an outlier, with the PP going a terrible 1 for 8.  Despite that game, the power play woes can’t be washed out.  It’s horrible, almost to the point where you just hope the other team doesn’t get any short-handed chances.  The Pens have struggled at getting the puck in the zone (and off of the wall).  The few times when they do get things set up they then struggle getting the puck to the net, often passing the puck around but not many guys are moving their feet too much.

Is it coaching?  At this level it’s hard to say.  A coach can only do so much, the players are the ones that have to execute.  Surely they know what to do and possess a power play unit with arguably more pure skill than anywhere in the league.  The tradeoff is a lack of muscle for scoring an "ugly" goal and also the mindset to use that skill to pull off an elaborate play.

The PK, for the most part, has been OK.  Throw out the Washington game and they’re at 91.6%.  As usual, it’s not pretty work killing penalties but guys like Rob Scuderi, Max Talbot, Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik have been doing their jobs for the most part.  Can’t forget Marc-Andre Fleury either, he’s been good in this aspect so far.

Shots against per game: 27.8

--Perhaps the most marked improvement to this point that I can quantify.  The Penguins are playing with a lot more aggression and have made it a point under the new coach to get more offensive zone time.  The return of Sergei Gonchar helps but even defensemen like Hal Gill and Mark Eaton have forced the issue and been more direct at holding the puck in the blueline, something they didn’t noticeably do this year under Michel Therrien.  The Pens were only average 27 shots a game under Therrien, so if Bylsma can keep this mentality strong, that’s one clear area of improvement since the coaching change.

Record when not being outshot: 3-0-1

Record when outshot: 0-1-0

--It’s only one game (Washington, as you might expect) but it’s a nice trend that ties into the last stat category.  "Keep the puck in the other team’s end, let’s get pucks to their net" that’s a basic philosophy Bylsma has been preaching.  Seems effective and simple enough, so far the results are largely there.

Notable Individual stat lines in the Bylsma stint

Evgeni Malkin: 3 goals, 4 assists

Sidney Crosby: 2 goals, 5 assists (4 games)

Ruslan Fedotenko: 2g + 3a

Sergei Gonchar: 2g + 3a

Petr Sykora: 2g + 1a

Not to say these guys weren’t playing hard under Therrien, but all of the above are now on a pace under Bylsma to improve on their season stats (except Malkin).  It’s a small sample size and things surely will even out, especially for a guy like Fedotenko who’s not going to be scoring at a point per game pace for very long.  Still, it’s a good sign the skill players are responding (and producing) under the new coach and his style.

--

All things considered, it’s still very early but a lot of the indicators are positive so far for Byslma.  He’s not winning on style points but he has been winning.  If he can somehow figure out how to fix the power play things would be a lot smoother.  Short of that, it’s pretty much steady as she goes until after the deadline next week, one gets the sense the team is waiting to see who might be dealt to bring a top line skilled winger in.  Once the dust settles there, will the team settle down and be ready to run?

Time will tell, but how do you feel about the work (and results) that Bylsma has done so far.

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