Sunday NHL Insider: Pittsburgh's system works

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 5:28 PM

Pittsburgh keeps winning despite several injuries.

hide

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Dana Tyrell (42) battle for a loose puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) ORG XMIT: MIN2013122019011072

Photo: Chris O’Meara • Associated Press Defenseman Matt Niskanen is one of several players who have st,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Dan Bylsma swears he doesn’t have any secret, magic potion, that “we don’t sound fire alarms” and change everything when Pittsburgh Penguin players drop and drop and drop.

Yet, how does he explain the fact that his team is able to annually survive when top players, from Sidney Crosby to Evgeni Malkin, go down with injuries?

How does he explain the fact that this season the Penguins have been routinely playing without eight, nine, even 10 regulars, including top-4 defensemen Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi and now suspended defenseman Deryk Engelland and yet racking up victories?

“I don’t have a good answer for you,” said Bylsma, who took over as Penguins coach in Feb. 2009 and led them to a Stanley Cup four months later.

This season, it’s helped that Crosby has stayed concussion-free. He leads the league in scoring with 54 points, and for a team that’s won 11 times in 12 games and seven in a row, Crosby has points in 10 in a row.

It helps that every night, different players are stepping up, from Chris Kunitz to Brandon Sutter to Pascal Dupuis.

But the Penguins overwhelmed the Wild on Thursday using a blue line that included names like Matt Niskanen, top-pick youngsters Olli Maatta, 19, and Simon Despres, 22, Brian Dumoulin, 22, who came over in the Jordan Staal-for-Sutter package from Carolina, Robert Bortuzzo, 24, and Ulf Samuelsson’s kid, Philip, 22.

Niskanen was the only top-6 defenseman standing from training camp, and all the Virginia, Minn., native has done is lead the NHL in plus-minus (plus-20).

Tomas Vokoun is lost to a blood disorder? No problem. Call up Jeff Zatkoff, 26, in goal and watch him win six in a row.

There are teams around the NHL that rave about its depth, including the Wild, yet fall apart when struck by one or two injuries. A few years ago, the Wild collapsed when Mikko Koivu got hurt. This season, it took one Mikael Granlund injury to dry up the already-deficient scoring.

Imagine what would happen to Minnesota if it lost five defensemen.

The Penguins, who are running away with the awful Metropolitan Division, have true depth.

Most teams deploy the same system between the NHL and their top farm team in the American Hockey League. But there’s a difference between playing the same way and real integration.

Bylsma and Wilkes-Barre coach John Hynes use the same drills and same verbiage on the ice and in the locker room.

“To have a player step into our practice and go to the front of the line and do the drill and do the drill with detail and habit we expect, that’s a good sign,” Bylsma said. The Penguins use the simple concept of draft and development (Tom Fitzgerald oversees the development) and seem to do it better than most.

Players come up from Wilkes-Barre and don’t have to fret because they’re so comfortable with their role and responsibilities.

“I almost feel cheated. I don’t even get to coach them when they come up,” Bylsma said. “I don’t even get to say anything to them.”

Leipold: League is healthy

Under the NHL’s new revenue-sharing system, the Wild actually gets “a little money,” owner Craig Leipold said. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the top 10 revenue-generating teams distributed to the bottom 10. Now, the top 10 give to the bottom 20.

“This league is really healthy,” Leipold said. “A lot of the new revenue that’s coming into the league is leaguewide revenue that all 30 teams at least share in. In past years, the revenue in the league was going up, but it was because the top five or six teams’ local revenue generated such a large degree that it pushed the revenue of the league up. That didn’t help the lower teams.”

No rest for the weary

Dan Bylsma, who doubles as the U.S. Olympic coach, was asked if Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who leads the NHL in ice time, may feel refreshed at the Olympics because he won’t have to play 30 or 32 minutes a game.

“Who says that’s the case?” Bylsma said, smiling. “He’s a pretty good player.”

Just in case

The Wild’s Matt Cooke is an infamous prankster, so during his return to Pittsburgh on Thursday, Bylsma joked, “We did change the locks [of the locker room] on him.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Bottom 7th Inning
Washington 3
Boston 4 Top 3rd Inning
Minnesota 4
Toronto 0 Top 3rd Inning
Baltimore 0
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 1 2nd Prd 17:30
Boston 1
St. Louis 1 2nd Prd 17:48
Philadelphia 0
Minnesota 0 2nd Prd
Washington 1
Toronto 0 1st Prd 6:31
Tampa Bay 1
Dallas 2 1st Prd 6:51
Florida 0
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 27 2nd Half
Bucknell 36
Western Ky 41 2nd Half 18:03
Charlotte 35
Navy 22 2nd Half
Colgate 27
Temple 36 1st Half 1:29
East Carolina 33
UAB 33 2nd Half 17:24
Fla Atlantic 34
Boston Univ 34 2nd Half
Lafayette 40
American Univ 23 2nd Half
Lehigh 27
Wisconsin 48 2nd Half 16:27
Minnesota 40
Fairfield 7 2nd Half
Saint Peters 22
Arkansas 49 2nd Half
South Carolina 38
Morehead State 43 2nd Half 18:07
UT Martin 31
USC Upstate 27 2nd Half
Fla Gulf Coast 25
Lipscomb 24 2nd Half
North Florida 37
Southern Ill 25 2nd Half
Missouri State 19
Texas State 17 1st Half 7:13
Appalachian St 19
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6 1st Half 13:29
Coppin State 13
Middle Tennessee 14 1st Half 3:58
FIU 15
Texas-Arlington 30 1st Half 6:58
Ga Southern 22
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
UCLA 80
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC A&T 67 FINAL
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Georgia 60 2nd Half 2:52
Missouri 54
Ark-Little Rock 60 2nd Half 4:10
Louisiana 54
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 49 2nd Half 7:32
Lamar 67
SE Louisiana 58 2nd Half 7:28
New Orleans 66
Northwestern St 32 2nd Half 12:22
Stephen F Austin 30
Alabama A&M 39 2nd Half 10:00
Jackson State 48
Alabama State 43 2nd Half 10:00
Grambling 36
Southern U 57 2nd Half 11:45
Prairie View 31
Alcorn State 41 2nd Half 8:30
Texas Southern 54
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 50 2nd Half 3:46
Mercer 70
Abilene Christian 34 2nd Half
Incarnate Word 26
La Salle 29 2nd Half
Rhode Island 23
Illinois 29 2nd Half
Nebraska 49
TX-San Antonio 28 2nd Half
Rice 26
Valparaiso 27 2nd Half 17:36
Oakland 30
Missouri State 26 2nd Half
Indiana State 23
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close