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June 11, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Nashville, Tennessee - Postgame

Pittsburgh - 2, Nashville - 0

Q. Coach, just how proud are you of this group and what they were able to do this year?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, you know, it's hard to express it in words how proud we are of this group of players. You know, I've said on a number of occasions through the course of this playoff run that they're such a privilege to coach, and I mean that so sincerely. These guys are such great people, first and foremost, and they're terrific hockey players. We really believe that we've got a unique chemistry within our room. We think it's a competitive advantage for us.

You know, I've said all along here that you don't win championships without character, and I believe we have it in abundance in our dressing room. So we're grateful for the commitment and the sacrifice that this group of players continue to make on a daily basis to win championships.

This coaching staff is so appreciative of this group of players and what they go through. We push them hard. You know, it's not always warm and fuzzy, and so we push them hard to try to get the best out of them, and these guys embrace every challenge we give them.

Q. "It's a great day for hockey" is something that's known by everybody in Pittsburgh. Is "play the right way" the next kind of mantra, and what does that mean to you?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Oh, I don't know. We try to find little catch phrases that try to be reflective of how we want to play, and so these phrases end up taking on significant meaning with our team, and more so than probably the outside of our locker room.

We're trying to define with this group of players a certain identity, a certain style of play, a certain attitude that we think gives this group the best chance to be successful. We've come up with a few in our room that have caught on with this group of players. And you know, this coaching staff is so appreciative of how receptive they are to what we're preaching, and I think it starts with our leadership. We just have such quality veteran leaders in our room.

You know, it starts with Sid, our captain. He's just such a terrific person and has such an appetite to win, and I think it's really contagious amongst our group.

But it doesn't just end with Sid. You know, we've got so many quality guys in there that lead the charge for us. So some of these slogans that we share with them along the way, I think they take on significant meaning with our team; I can say that.

Q. The Pittsburgh Penguins have now seen Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux win multiple Stanley Cups, now Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both of them have three now. How special is it to the two of them and to the city of Pittsburgh for those two guys?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Oh, I would think it would have to be very special. These guys are special players. They're generational players. They're elite in their own way. They're different players, but they're both elite in their own way.

I really believe in just my time here with both guys, they've grown to be appreciative for one another and how they help each other have success and this team. And so when there are nights when maybe Sid might not have his A game, that Geno steps up and helps this team win and vice versa. There are other nights where Geno might not have his A game and Sid steps up and makes a big play to help this team win. They're two players of a very select few in the league that single-handedly have an ability to change the outcomes of games. That's how good they are. But I do believe that just in my time in Pittsburgh with them, I think they're appreciative of one another. I would have to think they are, at least that's been my observation.

This coaching staff is certainly appreciative of the two of them. We feel very fortunate that we have a -- I think I termed it a one-two punch maybe yesterday, but it's really a one and one-A. These guys, they're elite players. They're great people, and they're -- I don't know that you could find two better people to build a team around than these two guys.

Q. You've encountered a lot of really special rookies over the past year plus. How does Jake kind of compare to some of the other guys you've crossed paths with, and when did you know that he was kind of this rare breed?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, we knew early on that he was a real good player. You know, what he accomplished at the American League level, coming right out of college, and then when he came up to join our team and how he improved on a daily basis. You know, he has -- we talk a lot as a coaching staff about players that have it, that I-T. It's hard to explain in words what that "it" is, but you know it when you see it, and I think Jake is one of those guys.

He's got that IT. No stage is too big. He's a real competitive kid. He's got a high hockey IQ, and he's one of those guys that's just gotten better every day that he's spent when the Pittsburgh Penguins. So you can see the impact that he had throughout the course of this Playoffs. I think that's an indication of what he's capable of, and I believe that he's only going to get better.

Q. You touched on it a minute ago, but when you look at Sidney Crosby and everything he's accomplished and the way he's done it, what do you think is his legacy and what he'll leave already on the game and what he still will be able to?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I would have to believe that with what Sid has been able to accomplish in his career to this point would put him in the company of the all-time greats. You know, he's arguably the best player of his generation, and he's a guy that just knows how to win. And so he's done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he's a player that -- and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.

You know, his work ethic and my experience of being around the game for as long as I have, either as a player or as a coach, I don't know that I've been around a hockey player that has the work ethic that Sid has. So he has a willingness to go the extra mile, to control what he can, to be the very best, and he cares so much for this team and this organization and helping us win.

And so that being said, I have to believe that it would be hard not to have him in that conversation of the all-time greats.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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