By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – Look at them now, and they don’t look the parts they did when they were the ones wearing the skates and the pads. Former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is tall, lean and bespectacled, appearing much more like a published author (which he is) than a grinding, role-playing forward (which he was). Former ECHL coach Bruce Boudreau is, shall we say, stocky in a maybe-he’s-a-plumber sort of way, and it’s hard to imagine the scorer’s touch he once had, all those years ago, in the American Hockey League.
On Friday, Bylsma, the 38-year-old coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boudreau, his 54-year-old counterpart with the Washington Capitals, will be constantly countering each other, changing strategy and lines on the fly, adjusting to the flow of a crucial Game 4 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Left unsaid and unnoticed at Mellon Arena will be the fact that theirs is a relationship that dates back more than 15 years, and that even with all the tweaks that go with coaching hockey at the highest level, they both arrived at this point for one reason.
“Haven’t changed a thing,” Boudreau said last month, as he completed his first full season as Washington Capitals coach.
“I think the best thing that I can say about myself,” Bylsma said last week, “is I have been myself.”