After another playoff loss, the Pittsburgh Penguins now have to take a look in the mirror and assess themselves. Why do they have just a 3-3 series record in the past three seasons? How did they blow a 3 games to 1 lead against the New York Rangers? Why have they not won a game outside of the first 2 rounds of the playoffs in now five years?
All eyes will turn on the coach. You can't fire 23 players, but you can change the voice behind the bench. At his post-game press conference last night, Dan Bylsma sounded like he knew it.
"Well, you know, our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup," Bylsma glumly said. "We haven’t done that in five seasons. I’m 20 minutes post battling for a Game 7, and right to the bitter end. I haven’t contemplated what that price is gonna be, or anything towards the future yet."
It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that Bylsma's immediate future isn't going to bode well. This is bound to be another off-season of upheaval for the Penguins- who have to make free agent decisions on Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen with limited salary cap space to do so. Two out of the three (if not all three) have likely played their last games as Penguins.
More troubling for Bylsma, most of the key players who will be back next season weren't able to score this playoff. Sidney Crosby, famously, only had 1 goal in the 13 playoff games. James Neal only had 2 goals, none of them in the last six games. Chris Kunitz only scored 3 goals, and just one of those came in the final eight games.
Of course, Henrik Lundqvist had something to do with that, but Bylsma could get them going and he couldn't boost a power play that only scored once against the Rangers in the entire seven game series.
Bylsma may be the victim of bad luck, playing against hot goalies, the Pens not being able to execute for him, and it's certainly not all his fault. He's a good coach with tactics that have been proven to work. Unfortunately, they have worked out a lot better in the regular season- where Bylsma's .672 winning percentage is best ever through 400 games. Since winning the Cup in 2009, Bylsma is an even 27-27 in the playoffs.
As Bylsma said, we don't know what the price may be, but after five straight disappointing endings, it might be best for a fresh perspective to kick-start the Penguins back to where they want to go.