Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bylsma's Job on the Line in Game 7

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bylsma's Job on the Line in Game 7

Article excerpt

Win or lose Game 7 tonight against the New York Rangers, Penguins star Sidney Crosby will be back next season as the face of the franchise and of the NHL.

Win tonight and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will be back.

I assume you notice the difference?

It hardly seems fair in some ways. Any coach is only as good as his star players. Many of Bylsma's stars haven't been nearly good enough against the Rangers. That's especially true of Crosby, who acknowledged after the Penguins' 3-1 loss in Game 6 Sunday night that he would like to be doing more, but then said, in a rare curt, defensive moment, that he would leave the evaluation of his play to others.

I'm cool with that and accept the challenge.

Crosby has been a huge disappointment, not just against the Rangers, but also in the first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He didn't have a point in Games 5 and 6 against the Rangers as the Penguins blew two chances to advance to the Eastern Conference final. He hasn't been able to lift the team's power play, which has scored just once in 19 chances against the Rangers. He has only one goal in 12 postseason games this spring, one in 17 playoff games dating to last season. He failed to get a point last year when the Penguins were swept by the Boston Bruins in four games in the Eastern Conference final.

Shouldn't we expect more from Crosby, who ran away with the NHL scoring title this season and surely will be named the league's MVP? The Penguins certainly do. They are paying Crosby $12 million this season. Right now, they are getting closer to 12 cents in return from him.

Yet Bylsma will take the hard fall if the Penguins lose tonight at Consol Energy Center. Who says life is fair for an NHL coach? No sport treats its coaches with less respect than hockey.

But in other ways, Bylsma would deserve to take the fall. It's true, he led the Penguins to 109 points in the regular season -- their second-biggest number in franchise history -- despite losing 529 man-games to injury. It's also true he would be hired by another club in about 3 1/2 minutes. He's that highly regarded around the NHL.

But if the Penguins lose tonight, it will be the fifth consecutive year they will have been eliminated from the playoffs by a lower seed. They will be just 4-5 in postseason series since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009 under Bylsma. This elimination, should it happen, will hurt more than most because the Penguins had what seemed to be a secure 3-1 series edge.

No ownership can be expected to put up with that underachievement. Bylsma will have to go if the Penguins lose tonight even though he has a contract for two more seasons.

I interrupt here to say I believe the Penguins can win Game 7. It's hard for any team to win three games in a tough series on the other club's ice. …

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