Dan Bylsma's 5 Best Moments as Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Wednesday night's Pittsburgh Penguins game against the Colorado Avalanche marked the second anniversary of the first game Dan Bylsma coached as the Penguins bench boss.
Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Penguins in February of 2009 after Michel Therrien was fired. The Penguins were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, and another chance at the Stanley Cup seemed out of the question.
But when Bylsma came up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, where he was acting as head coach, he knew exactly what to do. He encouraged the players to loosen up and immediately earned their respect. The Penguins players loved him for giving constructive criticism and working on their level.
The fans loved him for his calm demeanor behind the bench and his superstition of eating a Qdoba burrito before Stanley Cup playoff games.
No matter what you think of the Penguins, it's hard to argue that Bylsma is not setting himself apart as one of the best coaches in the NHL.
Bylsma has done a lot for the Penguins in two years—here are five of his finest moments.
5. No Longer "Interim": April 27, 2009
When Bylsma was originally brought up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he was given the title of interim head coach.
But after two months of working with the Penguins, general manager Ray Shero decided that Bylsma was the man Pittsburgh needed behind its bench. He removed Bylsma's "interim" title and gave him a multi-year contract through 2012.
The official promotion was made after the Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers four games to two in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Shero inked the deal with Bylsma on April 27, 2009.
"Dan has done such an impressive job with our team, both on and off the ice, that we didn't see the need to wait any longer to announce our decision," Shero said in a statement that was printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He is the man we want to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins as our head coach."
4. 100 Victories: February 10, 2011
Last Thursday, Bylsma earned his 100th victory as head coach of the Penguins as Pittsburgh defeated the Los Angeles Kings in overtime by a score of 2-1.
The Penguins came into the game having lost their last two games to the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets. But AHL call-up Brett Sterling put the Penguins on the board at 6:53 of the first, and Pittsburgh and L.A. played a tight contest until the extra frame.
With 19 seconds remaining until the contest headed to a shootout, Jordan Staal put the puck past Jon Quick and broke the Pens' brief losing skid.
Bylsma is the fifth fastest coach in NHL history to 100 wins and the third coach in Penguins history to achieve the mark.
"It was a rewarding win, to get the 100th one, the way our team battled here," Bylsma said after the game. "I've got the puck. It's nice to get to triple digits."
3. First Playoff Series Victory: April 25, 2009
It was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins' biggest rival.
The Penguins found themselves in a 3-0 hole to start the second period. To make things worse, they were playing in Philadelphia, where hostile Flyers fans were doing everything they could to help their team earn a Game 7.
In the second period, Max Talbot fought Daniel Carcillo. As he went to the penalty box, he made a "Shhhh" gesture to the home crowd.
It turned out to be the spark the Pens needed.
Ruslan Fedotenko, Sergei Gonchar and Mark Eaton contributed to the scoresheet, while Sidney Crosby added two goals, as the Penguins won 5-3 and eliminated the Flyers. They won the series in six games.
The Pens credited Talbot for helping them to victory, but this was what led Shero to give Bylsma the permanent coaching job.
2. 18-3-4 Start: February 16-April 11, 2009
Bylsma knew the Penguins were in trouble when he was promoted on February 15, 2009.
They were in 10th place and had just lost to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs the night before. They dropped the game after jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
Bylsma's first game was against the New York Islanders, the team he had previously worked for as an assistant coach.
The Penguins didn't earn a win in Bylsma's first game, losing by a score of 3-2 in the shootout.
However, they got it together and won four of their five remaining games in February to get their 2008-09 season off to a fresh start.
Pittsburgh finished the season with a record of 45-28-9 for 99 points and earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They also had home ice to start the playoffs.
1. The Stanley Cup: June 12, 2009
There's no contest as to the highlight of Bylsma's coaching career thus far.
The Penguins, who had defeated the Flyers, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs, were set to meet the Detroit Red Wings in a rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. Detroit had won the Cup in six games last time the teams met.
For three games, it looked like they would do it again.
The Wings defeated the Penguins by identical scores of 3-1 in Detroit to grab a 2-0 series lead.
In Pittsburgh, the Penguins defended their home ice by tying the series with identical 4-2 victories.
Detroit took things over again in Game 5 with a dominating 5-0 shutout. It got so bad that Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in favor of Mathieu Garon.
Game 6 was back in Pittsburgh. The Penguins earned a 2-1 victory with a dramatic save by Rob Scuderi on Wings forward Johan Franzen.
For Game 7, the Red Wings were heavily favored. They had the veteran experience and home ice on their side. They also had Mike Babcock, who is arguably the top coach in the NHL today.
But once again, the Penguins proved their doubters wrong.
Max Talbot scored two goals, and the Penguins again needed to play the defense of their lives to keep the Wings from scoring as time ran out. But when the clock hit zero, Pittsburgh had won the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history.
With the victory, Bylsma became the 14th first-year head coach to win the Cup and the second first-year coach to do so after taking over midseason.
Hopefully he can bring at least one more title to the Steel City.