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May 13, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Game One

Q. Mike, can you just talk about the postseason that Matt Cullen has had. Has he taken you by surprise at all? More importantly, the influence he's had on the younger players in the room.
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I can't say enough for the influence he's had on not just the young players, our whole group. I think he's a very well respected guy. He's a great pro, terrific person and his play speaks for itself, not just in the regular season, but down the stretch when we were fighting for a playoff spot. Matt's been a key part of this team's success in a lot of different aspects, whether it be on the penalty kill, taking defensive zone face-offs, or coming up with a big goal for us at a key time to help us win.
So I think he's really enjoying this journey that we've been on, and I think he really values his ability to have an impact on some of the kids that we have in our lineup.
As I've said on a number of occasions, he's been playing between two guys that are almost half his age, and I think he's really having fun with them.

Q. The word speed has been used a lot to describe these two teams and how they match up. How would you kind of define that? Would you say their different for each team, the way they define that or similar? Give me your thoughts on that.
COACH SULLIVAN: I think we're similar in the sense that we want to play a fast paced game. There's all different forms of speed, whether it be foot speed, team speed, your ability to change the point of attack, your ability to stretch the ice past the puck. There's all different aspects of speed.
I think we're trying to play a similar game, so I'm sure it will be an exciting series. They're two pretty good teams that have a fair amount of skill on either side. So it will be an exciting series.

Q. Coach, there's been a lot of talk about the -- obviously, the Hagelin, Bonino, Kessel line. How did you come up with putting those three guys together? You talk to some coaches, and they're say, well, I just saw something with the players. Other coaches say, you know what, I was just looking for something that worked and put them together in practice, and it just clicked.
COACH SULLIVAN: Sometimes you stumble on things when you explore your combinations. The way that that line came together was Geno was playing between Hagelin and Kessel, and they were a pretty good line. When Geno got hurt, we moved Bones into that spot and decided not to mix the group up. We moved Bones up into that spot.
It didn't click right away. We decided to stay with it to give it a chance, and they found their way, the three players, and it's become a real good line for us for the last eight to ten weeks of the season and into the playoffs now.

Q. Coach, you've probably answered this in your response already, but along those same lines with Carl, how much did your past relationship with him in New York kind of help in this situation?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, it helped me for sure, I think, because I know what his strengths are. I knew exactly what we were getting when we traded for him. He's a great teammate. He's a great kid.
And then on the ice, I knew that he can really skate, and that's his obvious competitive advantage. But I've always believed, in watching him when I coached him with the Rangers, that he's a guy whose hockey sense was underrated, and I think he has the ability to play with top players because he has good hockey sense. So not only can he chase pucks down and force turnovers, but he -- when he creates those turnovers, he has the ability to make the right play.
So that certainly helped me when he became part of our team, in trying to put him in a position to be successful.

Q. Generally speaking, goaltenders seem to have gotten larger in the past decade, but Bishop's size, how unique is he in that regard? Is it just conventional wisdom with a bigger goalie that you have to get him moving more in that regard? Or maybe a bit more nuances than that?
COACH SULLIVAN: Obviously, he's a big man. When you look around the league, there's a lot of them. I think that's one of the evolutions of that position, it seems like the size and the stature of that player gets bigger and bigger. He takes up a lot of net. He's a very good goalie.
I think, regardless of who's in net, any time that you have the ability to force them to move, it creates opportunity for you. So I think we're going to have to put the puck on the net. We're going to have to look for opportunities to create that next play and force him to make that next save, and that's usually when opportunities present themselves.
But there's no question he's a very good goalie.

Q. Coach, Matt's been on a number of big stages, and they keep getting bigger. What is it about his makeup that allows him not to seem to be overwhelmed at all by the situation?
COACH SULLIVAN: I just think Matt has the ability to stay in the moment. You know, he doesn't get overwhelmed by the circumstance or the drama. He loves to play. He loves to compete, and he stays in the moment. He has the ability to respond the right way to some of the adversities during the course of a game or the course of a number of games for that matter. I've watched him both in Wilkes-Barre and here in Pittsburgh. If he thinks he should have had a save or one gets by him, it doesn't impact the next play or the next save. He responds the right way to those sorts of adversities. And I think that speaks to his maturity. I think it speaks to his character, that he has the ability to respond the right way to those types of circumstances.
You know, this league is a challenging league. There's a lot of good teams. There's a lot of things thrown at you that are going to challenge you in those ways, and I think Matt, as a young player, has really displayed, you know, admirable resilience and resolve in that regard.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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