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June 2, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. Up 2-0 in this series, but you talked about finding things to improve on, ways to be better. If you could have your team improve in one area, what do you focus on?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think just consistency of play I think is an important element moving forward. We've had periods of time throughout the course of the first couple of games where we felt as though we were establishing the type of game that we wanted to play. But we think we can be a lot more consistent.

I think that's going to be an important part of our mindset moving forward, is just making sure that we have a readiness about us so that we get that consistent play shift after shift.

Q. Coach, what did you know about Chris Kunitz and his game before you became his coach? What have you learned or what has surprised you about it since?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't know that anything has surprised me about his game. I've always had so much respect for Kuny, how good a player he is, how competitive he is as a guy. I don't think it's by accident he has the number of Stanley Cup rings that he has.

He's ultra-competitive. I think probably what's jumped out at me the most, just having the opportunity to coach him over the last two seasons, is that he brings his best game when the stakes are high. I think that playoffs is a perfect example. Last playoffs is another great example.

He's a guy that I think is ultra-competitive. I think he leads through his example. I think he's an inspiration to his teammates in how he plays. He plays bigger than he is. He has a physical element to his game that I think helps our team win.

I think really what I've grown to respect and admire about Kuny is just how fierce a competitor he is.

Q. You talked a little bit about your power play struggles here in the first two games. Sid mentioned winning more faceoffs. It seems like you're struggling getting into the zone. What kind of adjustments do you need to make to improve going forward?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I would beg to differ that we struggled getting into the zone. We had some pretty good clean entries that we had some good looks right after it. We didn't execute for whatever reason.

I just think we've got to take what they give us. Obviously, if you can win that first faceoff, it's a big deal, because it's zone time right away. You don't have to spend 20, 25 seconds trying to gain access to the zone, and expend energy trying to do so. I think that's an important element of our power play, in particular.

I believe when these guys have sufficient zone time, they have great offensive instincts, and they see the plays that are there to be made.

The other aspect of it is, I think we can shoot the puck, we've had opportunities to shoot the puck, a little bit more. I think we can get more pucks to the net. I've always been a believer that nothing breaks coverage down better than a shot on goal. We can create our offense off of that.

Those are just some areas that we talked with our guys about. Listen, our power play has been really good for us, consistently throughout the course of this playoffs. We're still early in the series. We know these guys are going to be important for us moving forward. Our expectation is that they'll get the job done.

Q. A lot was said today about P.K. Subban's statement, a promise or guarantee that the Predators would win the next game. This is not the type of statement we hear a whole lot, how do you as a coach handle that type of stuff with your players?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Our focus is really on our team. We're not overly concerned about what our opponents are saying or what they're doing. Our focus is on our team, how we need to play in order to have success.

Q. Mike, there's been some chatter in the series about shots on goal, shot attempts, alleged possession numbers. What is your level of concern? How do you apply those things? Do you even look at them?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Of course, we look at them. I think all these advanced analytics or statistics, they're interesting. I think it's still a new frontier for our league. I think we're all trying to figure out what's relevant as far as, you know, how we can react to those types of things that help our team moving forward. But we certainly look at those statistics and try to figure out what we might learn from them.

I do think that shot attempts can be an indication of where the game is being played. Although, having said that, the last game we had more offensive zone time than defensive zone time, and we were out-shot attempted.

There are outliers. I think sometimes when they're taken in small sample sizes, they can be deceiving. But certainly I think common sense would suggest you don't want to be out-shot, you don't opt to be out-shot attempted over the course of the big picture for obvious reasons.

I believe that our team has the ability to win games different ways. I think we can win with our power play or special teams. I think we can win with our counterattack if we defend hard. We have a team that has quick-strike capability. We've shown that throughout the course of the playoffs. We're also a team that can pursue the puck and play the puck and force teams to defend us. That may be when our team is at its very best. We've shown glimpses of that throughout the playoffs, and we've shown it in other areas where we haven't had the puck that much, forced to defend. You have to give our respective opponents credit. These teams are good teams, and they're trying to establish their game as well.

I think what I have really grown to respect about our team, I think we have a scrappy group, a resilient group. We have guys that know how to win and they find different ways to win on different nights depending on circumstances.

Q. Mike, you talked about the contributions you've gotten on your staff from guys like Sauce or Jacques. What is it like working with Rick? What kind of impact has he brought to your team?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think he's an invaluable part of our staff. He's such a great hockey mind. I think he's a student of the game. He brings a lot of passion to what he does.

I think our players have so much respect for him, not only as a coach, but his body of work as a player I think speaks for itself. I think he's one of the all-time warriors of the game. Not only was he tough in the true sense of the word, but he was a guy that could score goals and play with elite players. He was an elite player in and of himself. I think our players have respect for him and what he brings to the table.

Me personally, I lean on him a lot in a lot of ways. He has some great relationships with some of the players on our team. As I said, I think he's a great student of the game. He has a good analytical eye. I think he really helps our coaching staff when we need to make those necessary adjustments, whether it be with line combinations or tactically in order to try to help our team continue to have success.

Q. I'm wondering if the crowd here even sort of enters into any aspect of your game preparation for the next couple of games. Obviously a big talking point outside the room. Do you even address that, discuss it at all? Is it a factor?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, we've already discussed it. I think it's something that our guys are excited about. It's a fun environment. It doesn't get any better.

I think players love to play in buildings that have tons of energy. I think our building at home has had tons of energy throughout the course of the playoffs.

I know our guys are looking forward to the opportunity. I think we've got to embrace it. It's exciting. This is the best time of year to play. This is the best environment to play in, when there's a lot of buzz, a lot of energy in the building. I think our guys are excited about it.

I don't think it's anything that our players haven't seen in the past. I think last year, at this time of year, almost the same time, we went into a building at San Jose that's one of the loudest buildings in the league. They have that experience to draw on.

But certainly, as a player, as a team, as a coach, any of us that are associated with the Stanley Cup Finals, you can't help but get excited about the types of environments that these guys are playing in.

Q. The question about the analytics, do you feel teams have had to find a different way to win without certain personnel, Kris Letang, as well?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yes. I think that's a short answer. But I do. I think this year our team has been presented with different challenges, whether it be through injuries or otherwise, that has really forced us as a group to have to find different ways to win.

I think that's a sign of a good team. That's a sign of a competitive team. Just to have the resilience and resolve, just that stick-to-itiveness to stay with it, find different ways to win on different nights.

I give our players so much credit for the energy, the effort, the focus, the determination, the conviction. Whatever word you want to use that describes this group of players, I think they personify what it means to be a competitive team.

That might be the thing that we're most proud of as their coaches, is just their resilience and their resolve, their determination to find different ways to win. They never look for excuses, regardless of who is in our lineup, who is out of our lineup. It's always just the next man up, and let's compete. That's one of the things that we really love about this group of players.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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