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May 30, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Game One

Pittsburgh – 3
San Jose ‑ 2

Q. Your thoughts on what you've seen out of Bonino, especially tonight. Playing through some pain. What have you seen out of him?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I think he's a terrific player in every aspect of the game. We use him in so many key situations, both offensively and defensively.
I think he's a guy that has a real high hockey IQ, sees the ice really well. He has real good hands. His awareness defensively I think, the use of his stick to take passing lanes away, it's impressive.
He's brave. He blocks shots. He's one of our better shot‑blockers. He's a good faceoff guy. He's done so much for this team to help us get to this point.
I don't know what other praise I can shower on him right now. We think he's a terrific player.

Q. Your players have been critical of themselves recently for laying back with two‑goal or three‑goal leads. Conor was adamant saying you coaches told them to do the opposite. Keep going. Keep pushing. When you have reached them in so many ways, do you know why you're struggling to reach them in that regard of late?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think part of it is human nature. I think there's a few things that play. You have to give the opponent credit. They're going to push, too, raise their intensity. I think that's part of it.
But I also think sometimes it starts with our decisions with the puck. I thought early in the second period we turned the puck over a few times. We really didn't have a lot of ice to play on. We had opportunities to put pucks behind them. We chose to try to play in front of them instead of behind them.
I think when we're at our best, we make the right decisions in the neutral zone, that area of the rink. I think there's a few dynamics at play.
But certainly I think our players are well aware of how we have to play in order to play to our strengths and our identity.
Speed is always a part of it, where we put our opponents under pressure, whether we have the puck or don't have the puck. Sometimes you're better off not having the puck, putting your opponents under pressure when they have to make a play under a lot of duress. You can create offense that way, as well.
I think that's when we're at our best, is when we don't get stubborn with the puck, we make the right decisions, and we have the ability to generate offense different ways.

Q. How is Rust? What did you think of the hit by Marleau?
COACH SULLIVAN: Obviously we lost him for the rest of the period. He's day‑to‑day with an upper‑body injury. It's a blindside hit to the head. He gets a penalty. I'm sure the league will look at it.

Q. You've used Matt Cullen in his place after he left the game. What led you to want to use Matt there, and moving forward, what do you like about using Matt in that position?
COACH SULLIVAN: Matt is a versatile guy, too. We've used him up and down the lineup all year. He can play center. He can play wing. He can play either wing, the left side or the right side. He's a real smart player. He's good at both ends of the rink.
When he plays with Geno, it's another center iceman on the ice, if he has to take a faceoff. To have two center icemen on the ice, especially late in the game when you're defending a lead, I think that gives us more of a comfort level.
So I just think Matt is such a versatile player, we can use him in any capacity and he adapts his game.

Q. Mike, can you describe the lift on the ice, on the bench, that you got from Sidney Crosby tonight? I think he even grabbed the white board and started designing a play.
COACH SULLIVAN: Yeah, you could see his hunger to win. He's inspiring. I thought he was a force out there all night. He's so strong on the puck. His speed through the neutral zone. He's a threat. Every time he jumps over the boards, we feel like he's a threat to score, just a threat as far as putting pressure on our opponent's defense.
He has that twinkle in his eye, I think. He knows that we've played extremely hard to get to this point. When he plays that way, I think he inspires the whole group.

Q. Mike, the broadcast had you saying to your players you wanted them to play fast and fearless. Do you think they accomplished that objective?
COACH SULLIVAN: Sure, I do. We certainly didn't want to go into this series with a wait‑and‑see approach. We didn't want to go through a feeling‑out process. We wanted to try to go out and dictate the terms right away.
I think that's when we play our best, when we're on our toes and we skate. So we try to do it in a calculated way. When I use the term 'fearless,' I think that word encompasses a lot of things. Most specifically, it's not just, Let's not get overwhelmed by the circumstance, let's not have any sort of anxiety when we go out there because the stakes are high, let's just go and embrace the moment and challenge each other to be the best and have fun with this.
I thought our guys did that tonight.

Q. Just the importance of young guys like Bryan and Conor stepping up in the first there?
COACH SULLIVAN: They've been a big part of this team for so long now. It doesn't surprise us. These guys are good hockey players. They add another element to our team. The energy that they bring, the enthusiasm that they bring to the rink. They've stepped up and made some big plays for us, not just scoring goals.
Conor gets a big goal tonight. I thought he was real good. He was on the puck. He was quick. I thought he played that give‑and‑go game with Sid. When he plays that way, he's a real good player.
Rusty, I think his speed is so evident out there. His pursuit on the forecheck. Scores another big goal for us.
But the other young guys as well. Tommy Kuhnhackl had a couple big shots, strong on the wall. As I said all along, we have a nice chemistry of veteran players and young guys here that complement one another. I think they really enjoy one another.
What I really like about this group is that they play for each other. I think that is a neat dynamic to watch it unfold.

Q. Mike, you were praising Nick's game in a hockey sense. What about off the ice in a personal sense, can you tell me about how he fits into the team as a leader, is he funny, that kind of thing?
COACH SULLIVAN: He's a real calm, cool and collected guy. I don't think his heart rate gets too high. He just goes about his job. I think he's great with his linemates. He's great with the young players. He's a reassuring presence both in the locker room and on the bench.
I mean, you could see it in his play, his calm demeanor. He's the same way with his personality. I think that helps our group.

Q. What makes Cull and Schultz such an effective pair?
COACH SULLIVAN: We like how they complement one another. Cullsy is more a stay‑at‑home guy, big body, strong in front of the net, strong shot‑blocker, he can play in the trenches.
Justin is a puck mover. He gets involved in the rush, gets back to pucks quickly, helps us get out of our end zone. He has a real good shot on the blueline.
We think since we've had them together, they tend to complement one another fairly well. They played some important minutes for us in key situations.
I think our defense corps as a group, as a whole, have really stepped up for our team. These guys are playing as good as they can play or as good as I've seen them play since I've been here, all of them as a group of six. That particular pair, I think especially since Trevor Daley got hurt, has really stepped up for the group as far as helping us win.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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