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June 4, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Sullivan.

Q. Mike, you had some different looks for the power play drills out there. Is some of that just to give guys a different perspective, maybe open their minds to other possibilities?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah. I mean, we practiced some concepts that we've been working on all season. It's not anything that's new to them. But obviously we haven't had the success in this particular series, but we believe that these guys are capable. We're just trying to reinforce some strategies.

Q. Mike, fans go through different chanting routines, as you probably heard. Laviolette said he specifically enjoyed when your starting five were introduced. What were your thoughts, any particular chants you thought were funny?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think it's great. I just think the atmosphere is great. There's a lot of energy in the building. I think our players really enjoy it. I think they embrace the moment.

This is the best time of year to play. It's exciting hockey. It's two great hockey cities. Their fan support is behind them in each city. I think it's really neat how these cities are supportive of their respective teams.

Q. It's pretty clear they wanted Roman out against Sid, then Subban and Ekholm against Malkin. At this point do you go along with those matchups, too? Are you still trying to find situations where you can exploit that third pair?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, there will be moments in the game where if we have opportunities to look for advantageous matchups, we'll try to look for them. This coaching staff has never been one to take our team out of the flow to try to chase matchups. We believe in the group we have. We know they can play against anybody. When they're at their best, regardless of who their opponent is, they're going to have their hands full.

Q. Rick Tocchet had a five-minute chat with Phil Kessel this morning. What role would he have in helping Phil work through whatever? What have you thought of Kessel?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, Tocc has a vitally important role with all these guys. Number one, he has great relationships with these guys. They have a lot of respect for Tocc, his insights. He has real good relationships with them.

He has a lot of those one-on-one conversations that are so critically important in trying to help each respective player. In particular, he has a real good relationship with Phil. They spend a lot of time together. I think it's productive for both of them to have those types of informal conversations. They happen so often, I don't always pay attention to them. I think if it's something that Tocc thinks he needs to raise to my attention, he'll share it with me.

I believe in giving our coaching staff the latitude to build the relationships with these players because we're all trying to do the same thing: we're all trying to help them be successful.

Q. This year and last year, you had real balanced scoring, goals from unexpected guys. Do you think Jake has graduated past that stage? Do you need to have some other guys backfill that?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I'm not sure I understand your question.

Q. At the beginning of the playoffs, you might have thought goals from Guentzel were a bonus. Has it graduated to a point where he's an integral part of what you're doing?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think he's certainly made his influence on the playoffs for our team in such a positive way. He's a great offensive player. He's got good instincts. We can play him with anybody. He just has the ability to make plays around him better. He's got a nose for the net. He can score goals.

Yeah, I think the answer to your question is we rely on him to produce offensively for us. We need him to produce offensively for us. He has done that consistently through the course of this playoffs.

Q. What do you think you need to see from Phil for him to get his offensive game going? Are you happy with the quality and quantity of the shots he's taken so far in this series?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I just think as players and coaches, all you can really do is focus on the process, just trying to play the game the right way, maybe take the focus off of trying to score. I have those conversations with Phil.

I believe that when these guys just focus on the details of playing the game the right way, then the opportunities will present themselves. They're talented guys. They'll score.

I think that's the process that we try to focus on with all of our players, is you can't always control whether the puck goes in the net or doesn't go in the net. Phil has had a few grade A opportunities here in the last couple of games. It hasn't gone in the net for him. Eventually it will because he's that good of a scorer. It's more of control what you can out there, take what the game gives you, be competitive, win puck battles.

When you're involved in that fashion, then I believe these guys are talented guys, and they will find ways to get pucks to the net and score goals.

Q. A lot has been made of Sid and Malkin combining for no shots on goal last game. The matchups, they're creating some chances out there. Do you need more from them in Game 4?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Obviously we would like them to put more pucks on the net. I think they had opportunities to shoot that they passed up. I don't think that's always reflective in the statistics that you guys look at.

We certainly drill down a whole lot closer to the game than that. There are opportunities where these guys had, in pretty good areas, to put the puck on the net, and they chose not to.

As a coach, it's always a fine line because you don't want to interfere with their instincts. If they see plays that they think are there to be made, then they're going to try to make them. I think what we try to do with them is just try to get them to think in terms of having that shot-first mindset. I think when they do that, everything else will open up for them.

We thought there were opportunities in the game for both of those guys to put pucks on the net. They chose not to because that's what their instincts were telling them. I just think moving forward, if they can have a little bit more heightened awareness of trying to put pucks on the net, these guys are going to produce for us.

Their numbers speak for themselves. They've produced consistently for this team all year long and throughout the course of these playoffs. There's no doubt that we believe they will continue that, you know, through the course of this series.

They're such great players. It's hard hockey out there. You got to fight for every inch of ice. They command a lot of attention. So they're always playing through our opponents' top players. But that's what makes them as good as they are.

Q. Mike, most coaches I know are forever writing their lineups down, tinkering with them on paper, napkins. How often do you play with your lineup on paper? What eventually leads you to making a change of any kind?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We do it a lot. We do it a lot because our coaching staff, we tend to be visual guys. We like to see it in front of us. We have dialogue as a coaching staff.

I think we've always been believers in, we try to start with tandems, then we backfill lines from there. That's always been our philosophy as a coaching staff. We try to get tandems in place first, then we see what kind of tweaks we can make, if we've got to make them during the course of a game in order to try to be proactive to help our team have success or spark something if we feel like we're stale out there.

But our coaching staff, we have a lot of discussion and dialogue both behind and bench and in between periods. Ultimately I think, like most of those types of decisions, it boils down to a gut instinct on what you think in a given circumstance might be best for the team.

Q. Matt Murray's record bouncing back after a loss is, I believe, 7-0. What is it about his ability to do so? Do you see anything different in how he prepares afterwards, throws the game away?
MIKE SULLIVAN: No. I just think he has the ability to move by adversities. He's a mentally tough kid. He's a real resilient kid. He doesn't let any of the outside noise, or if he thought he should have had one of the goals, he doesn't let that stuff affect him. He has the ability to move by that stuff. Usually that's a certain maturity in a player's game, regardless of the position. It might be most difficult at the goaltending position for obvious reasons. That's a maturity in someone's game that usually takes time to acquire.

Matt has that instinctively. I think that's one of the things that makes him as good a goaltender as he is. He has the ability to move by that stuff. He puts his best foot forward. He controls what he can. He has a consistent approach to his game. He doesn't let any of the outside noise have an impact on his ability to perform.


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