The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

February 1, 2013

Penguins look to snap home funk

PITTSBURGH — Dan Bylsma remembers when Consol Energy Center opened a couple years ago and the Pittsburgh Penguins struggled to get comfortable in their fancy new digs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins coach heard the clamoring for the team to pack up and head back across the street to the decidedly antiquated – though plenty intimidating – Igloo. He couldn’t miss the chatter about how the “House That Mario Built” was too posh for its own good.

It was all Bylsma could do to stop from laughing.

“We’ve won a lot of hockey games after that two or three games to start that season,” he said Friday. “We haven’t played well here (this season). We’re going to win a lot of home games.”

Might be a good time to get started.

The Penguins are the only team in the NHL yet to record a point at home. They’ve been outclassed in losses to the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, getting outscored 9-3. They’ve been punchless on the power play and pathetic on the penalty kill.

And yet this is the same team that has two wins at Madison Square Garden in the season’s first three weeks as well as road triumphs at Philadelphia and Ottawa. Pittsburgh shut down the New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday night in a competent – though Bylsma insists far from perfect – victory in which the Penguins sucked the life out of the Garden one smart play at a time.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping everything most to the outside defensively,” center Sidney Crosby said. “We played with a lot of speed, a lot of pace. I think as far as a complete game goes that was the best job we did.”

A style that plays in stark contrast to the sometimes sloppy game the Penguins have played at Consol. The Islanders torched Pittsburgh 4-1 on Tuesday night thanks in large part to 11 giveaways by the Penguins, two of which led directly to New York goals.

Bylsma has no plans on substituting the road jerseys in his players’ lockers today when they host the New Jersey Devils and he doesn’t buy into the thought that home teams – particularly ones loaded with offensive talent like the Penguins – have to put on a show to get the crowd energized. Bylsma said that argument has almost “zero credibility.”

Given a choice, Bylsma figures fans want to see winning hockey, regardless of style points. He pointed to Pittsburgh’s highly entertaining play at the end of last season as proof. The Penguins ended the regular season with a 21-3 push at home. They scored lots of goals. They gave up plenty too, and it didn’t translate into the playoffs, where they were ushered out of the postseason by rival Philadelphia in six wild games.

“I think very much we’re still finding exactly what our best game looks like and what we need to play like as opposed to a team that had most goals for last 20 games last year and also had a lot of goals against,” Bylsma said. “That’s not necessarily a team that did well in the playoffs with that mentality. Yesterday was a start. We’re building. We’ve got to build that trust and belief.”

There was plenty to like. Bylsma restructured the first power play unit and moved forward James Neal from the rover spot he had been playing into one a little closer to the goal, while Crosby did a little more work near the point.

The result was an electric power play goal early in the third period where Crosby took a pass from Evgeni Malkin then fired a laser at Neal’s stick. Neal expertly deflected the puck over Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to put the Penguins up 2-0.

It was the kind of lightbulb moment that seemed to give Pittsburgh a welcome energy boost. Simon Despres scored on a breakaway a few minutes later and the Penguins put the clamps down the rest of the way.

“There was nothing forced about that play,” Crosby said. “Nealer got to the net and Geno made a great entry. Those are all little things that added up to a nice play. There was no trying to pass through three guys to get a shot you would never take.”

While Bylsma thinks his team may have found something against the Rangers, the search for a winger to put alongside Malkin and Neal continues. Newcomer Zach Boychuk will get his chance today.

The Penguins claimed Boychuk off waivers on Thursday and Bylsma plans to throw the former first-round pick into the mix to see if the speedy Boychuk can mesh with his two higher profile linemates.

The 23-year-old Boychuk has seven goals and 11 assists in 73 career games. Playing alongside the reigning MVP and an All-Star is pretty heady territory. He figures he’s got nothing to lose.

“Any time you’re in the NHL, there’s eyes on you and you’ve got to perform,” he said.  “For me to jump into a game (today), I think that’s the best way to do it. I don’t want to be waiting and anxious.

“I want to get right into it.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Cleveland Browns receiver Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1

    A person with knowledge of the meeting tells The Associated Press that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon will have a hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1.

    July 24, 2014

  • Pirates 0723 Early outburst carries Pirates past Dodgers

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers 0723 After makeover, Steelers ready for resurgence

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers Patriots Front.JPG Gronkowski cleared to play at Patriots training camp

    Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play at the New England Patriots training camp.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy 0720 McIlroy holds on to win British Open

    Walking off the 18th green as the British Open champion, Rory McIlroy kept gazing at all the greats on golf’s oldest trophy.
    On the claret jug, his name is etched in silver below Phil Mickelson.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0719 Pirates take second straight over Rockies, win in 11th inning

    Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
    Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorado’s Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • out at home Eighth-inning rally carries Pirates to victory over Rockies

    Travis Snider’s pinch-hit double in the eighth scored Neil Walker to spark the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
    Walker trotted home when Colorado right fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t track down Snider’s sinking line drive off reliever Matt Belisle (2-5). All-Star Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly one batter later.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads