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May 30, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Mike, it seems like ever since the first series against Columbus, you guys have been getting out-shot, sometimes in consecutive games, yet still you find ways to win. Columbus, Washington. Does it sometimes feel like you are a team of destiny, maybe there's some divine powers willing you to these victories?
MIKE SULLIVAN: No, I don't think so. I think our team has an ability to win games different ways. I think one of the strengths of this team is the quick strike-ability. We can be opportunistic. When we get high-quality chances, we have some people that can finish.

An example of that would have been last night in the first period.

I think this group has an ability to win games different ways. Sometimes we're going to out-shoot teams, control territory. Other nights we're going to have to defend, limit the quality of a chance, rely on our counterattack game. Some nights it's our special teams.

But I do think that this team has the ability to win games different ways. So obviously we'd like to generate more shots than we did in the game last night, and I believe we will do that. I think a lot of it was a function of our energy level, our ability to establish that skating game that we want to play.

Q. Mike, Carl Hagelin not in the lineup, is that a coaching decision or an injury?
MIKE SULLIVAN: That was a coach's decision.

Q. You have dealt with different styles as these playoffs have gone on. Specifically after Game 1, as a coaching staff, how do you make adjustments as the series progresses?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We try to learn from each experience. We play Game 1. We watch the film. We had discussions this morning as a staff. We presented a film session to the players. We try to point out a few areas of the game that we can learn from in hopes to be better for Game 2.

That process will continue throughout the course of a series. That's the approach we've always taken with this group. That won't change. We'll make the adjustments we think we need to make, or we'll heighten awareness in certain aspects of our game that we think will help us have success.

And then we'll drop the puck for Game 2, then we'll compete, go through the process all over again.

Q. One theme we've seen quite a bit in the playoffs this year is bouncing back from bad performances. You have done that quite well against Ottawa and Washington. Ottawa and Washington actually did it to you guys as well. Is this a bounce-back game for you even though you actually won the game last night?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think it's important that we respond the right way. We certainly didn't play the game that we know we're capable of playing. As a coaching staff, we always believe in trying to focus on the process of the game. Although the results are very important at this time of year.

We try to be honest and candid with our players as far as our self-assessment. We know we're capable of playing a better game. I know our players know that, as well.

We're pleased with the result of the game, for sure. As I said last night, I don't think we should discount the quick strike-ability or the opportunistic play from some of our guys. We get some big plays at key times that end up changing the outcome of a game. I think our team has that ability.

We got some high-quality looks, and we were able to convert. I know we're capable of playing a more consistent 60-minute game. That's something that we discussed with our team. But our players are well aware of it. We always look to our leadership group that we trust so much just because of their body of work with us and their ability to respond the right way to any of the adversities that this team has faced.

You know, our process throughout this whole playoffs, and this is something that we constantly have dialogue with our players about, is making sure we have a short memory. We're going to learn from each experience, then we're going to move by it. We're going to look forward, and we're not going to look behind.

So, you know, we've had some games throughout the course of these playoffs that we haven't liked, that we said, Hey, we know we're a better team. We try to learn from that experience, move by it, respond the right way.

I think this is a similar circumstance. We're certainly pleased with the result we got. We know we're a better team than the way we played. We just have to make sure we respond.

Q. Mike, difficult season offensively for Chris Kunitz this year. The playoffs, been effective, playing physical against Washington, coming up with big goals-against the Senators, even last night. What have you seen out of him where he's been able to raise his game at times during the playoffs?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, the thing that I really love about Kuny is that he's the consummate team guy. He does whatever we ask. We've played him in different roles throughout the course of this year. Sometimes we've played him in a top-six role, on a power play; other times we've played him in a bottom-six role, he's helped our penalty kill. Whatever we ask of him as a coaching staff, he embraces. That's what we've really grown to love about Kuny and respect about him, is he's all about helping the team win.

I think it's not by accident that he has the amount of Stanley Cup rings that he has. He's a high-stakes player. He's a fierce competitor. When the games become most important, he is at his very best. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference is another example.

He's a real important part of this team. We use him in so many different capacities. Regardless of what capacity we use him in, he just embraces the challenge.

Q. Could you fill in the blanks on some details with respect to Kris coming back into the fold? How long has it been since his surgery he's been able to spend time in the presence of the guys in the dressing room?

Q. Letang. He mentioned yesterday he was helping the staff. Did the coaching staff approach him or did he offer his assistance to you guys to scout and observe?
MIKE SULLIVAN: No, we approached him. We spoke with him. I spoke with him about it. He's an important part of this team. I know his teammates have so much respect for Tanger, and we think it's important that he stay in the mix.

He's another one of those guys that's just a great teammate. He cares so much about the Penguins, trying to help them win whether he's in the lineup or he's not in the lineup. We wish we had him in the lineup. In the absence of that, he's a great set of eyes for us.

I think the fact that he's still a player and sees the game from a player's vantage point, I think he can help our coaching staff in that regard. That's what we've asked him to do.

He sits in on some of our coaches' meetings that we have, not all of them but some of them. We certainly value his input. He has great relationships with his teammates. I think he has the ability to have, you know, one-on-one conversations with or group conversations with defense pairs or the defensemen as a whole or the power play, whatever it may be.

He has the ability to have informal conversations with these guys. He can offer his insights or his perspective from seeing the game from a different vantage point than being on the ice.

I think he has so much to offer this group, both our coaching staff and the team as a whole, even though he's not in our lineup.

Q. How long has he been back with the guys?
MIKE SULLIVAN: He's been back for a while, yeah. He's been back for a while. He's been traveling with us. He's around the team every day. I think Tanger, he loves hockey. He loves being at the rink. He loves being around his teammates. He's all in. We want him to be around. We encourage it. We think it's good for our team. He announces our starting lineup every night.

His personality is contagious with our group.

Q. You have faced very different challenges in terms of breaking the puck out in these playoffs. Having looked at Nashville, how do you characterize the challenge they present? As a competitive guy, is sort of solving that problem something that you take pride in, that you enjoy?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah, I do -- we do enjoy it. I think as a coaching staff, it's our job to try to help these guys with solutions to some of the challenges that they're going to be faced with, whether it be tactically or otherwise.

We try to game plan. We try to show them what the tendencies of our opponents are and potential solutions to those challenges.

I think that's part of the fun part of being in a seven-game series, is those subtle adjustments and tweaks that you make from game to game, whatever it may be. So we as a coaching staff take pride in that. We work extremely hard to try to prepare these guys for what they're up against.

We try to offer them, you know, the tactical solutions from game to game to try to help them have success.

Q. Along those lines, Nashville is a team that you know how good their defensemen are, we know how good at Pekka is at playing the puck. How do you get a clean zone entry and breakout against this team?
MIKE SULLIVAN: At the end of the day, it boils down to execution, taking what the game gives you. We're not always going to have clean exits and entries. What we do, we have to take advantage of them.

I think that's the most important take away. We have strategies that we're trying to execute out there that gives us the ability to come out of our end zone, preferably with the puck. If we don't, we've got to pursue the puck, we've got to put it into the right areas of the rink that give our team an opportunity to establish a forecheck or to establish a puck pursuit game.

I think our team has the ability to have success both ways. We can generate offense or momentum, or create momentum off of our puck pursuit game just as well as we can off of our possession game.

I think it's going to be a hybrid approach, as it always is with our team. It boils down to taking what the game presents, making sure that we execute and we make the right decisions.

Q. Your team played so much hockey last year, especially Geno, Sid. How difficult is it for players to find the motivation for every game, to keep the same level of determination and motivation for every night? Is it an issue for you as a coach?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't think it's an issue. I don't think it's an issue for any one of us. I think this group of players understands the opportunity that's in front of us. I think they're excited about this challenge.

I don't think motivation or determination at this point in the season is an issue for either side. You know, when you're in the Stanley Cup Finals, and you have an opportunity in front of you where a potential championship is tangible and right in front of you, I think all of our guys are extremely motivated at this particular point in the season.

This team has worked so hard for a long time to earn this opportunity where we're at. So I think our group of players are as motivated, as excited, as determined each and every day because of that.

Now it's just about understanding that we have to continue to try to earn our way through each game here. And the way to do that is to not, you know, look ahead of that one task at hand, and not dwell on the past. We've got to make sure that we stay in the moment and we continue to do everything in our power to have success.

Q. (Question regarding Nick Bonino.)
MIKE SULLIVAN: He's an important player on our team. I think he plays in so many aspects of our game. We rely on him in so many ways. I think sometimes Nick flies under the radar for obvious reasons, with some of the star power that we have. Nick quietly goes about his business and does a great job for us. He's a great defensive player, he's a good penalty killer, he can win faceoffs. We use him on our second power play. We use him when we're defending leads. We use him in so many different ways.

He embraces it. We've had him with different linemates throughout the course of the year. Regardless of who plays on his flanks, he's a good communicator, he talks with his linemates, they find ways to have success.

I think Nick provides that calming, stabilizing force at the center ice position that's so vitally important to helping us win. I know that his teammates value what he brings, his coaching staff certainly does. He's an important part of our team.

Q. Just like the three goals that Nashville got, I don't know if I recall too many high-quality chances you gave up, so what do you think was behind the success, mostly keeping them to the outside last night?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think we defended pretty hard. We defended a little bit more often than we would like. It was a bizarre game the way the game was played. There were long stretches of the game where neither team got anything.

You know, the second period was an interesting period. For the first 14-plus minutes of the period, I think the shots were 4-0. It wasn't like one team was under siege. There were long stretches of the game where, you know, there weren't a lot of high-quality or quantity of scoring chances, for that matter.

I thought our guys did a real good job defending hard when the time came. Certainly I think we can execute better than we did. I think we can do a better job controlling territory. I think we can generate more scoring chances and more quantity of shots by controlling territory.

But having said that, I thought when the time came to defend, I know our guys are defending hard. They're competing out there. So, you know, as I've said all along here, it's not always pretty. We don't get points for style. But what I love about our team is that we find ways to win, we compete.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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