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June 4, 2016

Mike Sullivan

San Jose, California: Game Three

Q. Mike, you were a player in this building the first year it opened. What do you recall about playing here? How many times have you been back since?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, when I played in it, as you said, the building was brand‑new. This building has always been an exciting place to play. The acoustics in the building are terrific. There's a lot of excitement. It's a loud building.
I've been back a fair amount of times either as a player or as a coach since. Every time, at least my experience of coming here, every time our teams have played in here, it's been that same atmosphere. It seems like it's a real exciting place to play for a player.
The fans, I know they're very supportive of the Sharks. But even as a visiting team, there's a lot of energy in the building. I think that's exciting for a visiting team as well.

Q. In your experience, is it easier to get guys to focus on the improvements they have to make after a loss as opposed to you guys have won four in a row now?
COACH SULLIVAN: No, I don't think so. I think part of it is where your team is at. If you would have asked me that question during the regular season, I might have a different answer for you. But I think where we're at right now, I think our players are pretty locked in as far as how we have to play, where we need to improve and get better, what we can learn from game to game, so that we can try to gain some sort of an edge going into the next game.
I think our guys are pretty locked in right now at this particular time of the year.

Q. Mike, if I have my timeline right, you were the Boston coach when the Thornton trade was made. That is considered the biggest trade in Shark franchise history. Did you have input into that? What do you remember about that day? How is Joe a different player than when that trade was made?
COACH SULLIVAN: I did not have input into that. It happened so long ago, it's hard for me to remember the details surrounding it. Obviously it was a big trade for both organizations at the time.
As far as Joe, I think Joe is a great player. He's been a great player in this league a long time. He was a great player for me when he played for me in Boston.
I think, like everyone, the more experience that you gain, I think it offers players and coaches alike the benefit of perspective and how you can improve in certain areas to try to become better.
I think Joe is no different. I think he's wiser. I think his decisions that he makes with the puck probably are a little bit more calculated. He's a very good player. He's been a great player in this league for a long time.

Q. If you could think back to your first meeting with the team, the first day really, were there any signs when you spoke to the team that you had this team and they were listening to you? Were there any specific signs?
COACH SULLIVAN: Oh, I don't know. As you start coaching the group, and you go through the day‑to‑day process, I think as a coaching staff you get a feeling as to whether or not you have their ear. If you don't, you have to find ways to reach them.
My sense was, as we started to go through the process every day, trying to get better and trying to improve as a team, our coaching staff, we felt as though our players were being receptive, that we had their ear, they were buying in.
That's the biggest challenge as a coach, is trying to get the group to buy into the style of play or the details of the game, how you're trying to play, in order to get your group to the next level. From day one, this coaching staff had the sense that we had that from the players.

Q. Could you describe the difference in calling up players like Sheary or Rust, that you coached in the minors, versus calling up a guy who you haven't had before and there's some feeling out and uncertainty?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think it really helped me a lot having had the opportunity to coach those players in Wilkes‑Barre for the first part of the season because it gave me a chance to get to know them, the types of players that they are. When they did get called up, I knew how to utilize those guys and put them in positions to be successful as far as casting them in certain roles, giving them opportunities with certain lines or power plays or penalty kills, wherever we placed those guys.
I think it was a great benefit to me to have had that opportunity to coach those guys because I saw what they were able to accomplish at the American League level. I had strong feelings that these guys, their respective individual games could transfer to the NHL level.
I don't think you ever know for sure until players actually experience it. But we felt as though these guys could help the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But for me to have had the opportunity to coach them at the American League level certainly gave me a chance to get to know them and their strengths and the types of players that they are so that when I did have them at the NHL level, I could place them right into situations that would play to their strengths.

Q. Mike, Matt Murray, won multiple overtime games for you as a young rookie goaltender. What have you observed from him, whether it's his mental preparation during intermissions, overtime, that explains why he's been so good in those situations?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think it's just his makeup. He doesn't give you a lot in between periods. He's very calm, cool, collected. He just goes about his business.
I don't have a lot of interaction with him during the course of a game. I consciously try to stay away from him and just let him do his thing. He has his routine in between periods, before games, his preparation process that he goes through.
As I said all along here, he has a maturity level beyond his age. But certainly I think just his makeup serves him well when the stakes are high. When you get into overtime games, the stakes don't get any higher.
My observation of coaching Matt is you wouldn't know if he was in the first period or in a triple overtime game. He just goes out and tries to stop the puck.

Q. Fair or not, I think part of the narrative going into the playoffs is whether the Penguins blueline could go the distance. When Trevor Daley went out, those questions were asked again. Why do you think your group has been able to answer the bell and get you to within two wins of the Stanley Cup?
COACH SULLIVAN: Because I think they believe in one another. I think they believe in themselves. I think they believe in the group. So for all those reasons, I think we've been able to overcome some challenging injuries that we faced in the second half of the season.
Our team has been doing it for a while now. We've had some key guys go down for a long period of time in the regular season, and we were able to find ways to continue to win games and put ourselves in the best position for this post‑season.
As we go into the post‑season, I think it's been the same thing. I think it goes back to just the team concept and the belief in the team. We're not asking anybody to replace a player that goes down. It's tough to replace Geno Malkin or Trevor Daley, for that matter, but what we are asking players to do is to come in and help this team win by playing to their strengths and bringing to the table the skill sets that they have to help us win. That's what our guys do.
I think to their credit, you know, they believe in one another, they play hard for each other, and I think they believe in the team as a group. I think that's what has allowed us to kind of endure some of the injuries that we faced for the last four months.

Q. If you could step away from hockey for a second. Big news, Muhammad Ali, what do you think the impact was he had in sports and in life?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, he might be one of the most impactful athletes in this past century. He's obviously a charismatic guy, did a lot for the sport of boxing.
I think he'll be, at least from my experience, known not just for how great of an athlete he was, but for the impact that he had in a social aspect as well.
He's always been known for his witty quotes. I view some of them myself in coaching some of our teams. Just I think his personality in combination with how great of an athlete he was certainly allowed him to have the impact that he's had on sports, not just boxing.

Q. Olli mentioned, him and a couple guys went to visit Google yesterday. How much encouragement do you give guys when they have free times to disconnect from hockey for a mental reset?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think it's important to get away from it. It's an intense battle. Sometimes just to get away from it, to take your mind off it, recharge your batteries, reenergize yourself I think is a good thing.
I think balance in your life is important. So when players have an opportunity to get away from it a little bit, spend some time together doing something else, some sort of an activity, get their minds off the game, when they do come back to the rink, I think they're that much more energized and their mental focus is much better.
Certainly we encourage our players all season long, because of the nature of our game, how difficult it is, to make sure that we maintain some sort of balance in our life.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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