High expectations weigh on Pens

"This team has had the weight of expectation on them for a long time," Scuderi said. "It's something you have to just learn to deal with. Those are mostly just kind of outside sources putting the pressure on you. You just have to be able to shut it out and be able to play your game. The most important thing is the guys in this room. Nothing else really matters. If we're able to not think about the weight of expectation but enjoy the game and have some fun winning at the hardest time of year and the most rewarding time of year, it makes it a lot different."

It's not going to get any easier, either.

Head coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged Tuesday that the further the 2009 Cup win recedes in the team's rearview mirror, the higher the pressure is to reverse the recent trend of postseason disappointments.

"I don't think there's any question that it does," he said.

"Our goal here and focus is to win a Stanley Cup, and we've had good teams and good opportunities to do that and it's not been the case."

The Cup-winning spring is now more "a distant memory" than something else, the coach said.

"The farther you get away, I think there is more pressure to step forward and win hockey games and win a Stanley Cup here, especially with the team we have," Bylsma said.

And so what happens this spring is, of course, unknown.

It is so in 15 other NHL cities as we await the puck drop on the first games of the postseason carnival on Wednesday evening. But hockey observers around the league have told ESPN.com they think the Penguins will make significant change if there is another disappointing exit short of the Stanley Cup finals.

For instance, what is the future for Fleury, who was lifted before Game 5 of the opening-round series against the New York Islanders last spring in favor of veteran Tomas Vokoun, if Fleury can't regain the form that saw him win 30 postseason games in 2008 and 2009?

In short, there isn't likely to be one.

What of Bylsma?

There were rumors that the sweep at the hands of the Bruins last spring might spell the end for Bylsma, who won the Cup before he'd been on the job four months after taking over for Michel Therrien in February 2009. But GM Ray Shero held firm, and Bylsma, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team, has done an admirable job of keeping his injury-ravaged team on track en route to a Metropolitan Division title.

Still, hard to imagine he survives an early or less than graceful exit from the postseason.

What other roster modifications would follow another disappointment?

On the elevator doors leading from the street to the Penguins' locker rooms and the Consol Energy ice level is a new playoff logo: "Buckle Up Baby."

That sums things up pretty nicely.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 23354482.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...