Sullivan Says Pens Are Not Hard Enough to Play Against

Pens head coach adds they need 100% buy-in from team

Jeff Hathhorn
April 18, 2019 - 6:28 pm

93.7 the Fan

CRANBERRY TWP, PA (93.7 the Fan) – Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said they all take responsibility for what happened series loss to the Islanders.

“There was a lot of talk about how we didn’t score,” Sullivan said.  “When I look at how the series played out, it wasn’t so much that we didn’t score as some of the opportunities that we gave our opponent were high quality.  And we didn’t force them to have to work for it.  When you give someone that many 2 on 1s for example, those are high quality chances, NHL players are going to score.”

“We beat ourselves in a lot of circumstances with a lack of commitment to play the game the right way,” Sullivan added.  “To win in the playoffs you can’t be a high-risk team, you have to have a certain discipline to your game on both sides of the puck.  It’s not always about not scoring goals.”

Sullivan said they played the right way for a lot of the games in March and thought that would translate to the post-season.  The Pens fourth year head coach also noticed better play when star players were out.

“When key players go down, there is a certain level of urgency associated with the rest of the group that everybody has to buckle down and make sure they play the right way because we can’t win unless we do,” Sullivan said.  “We have to try and apply that same mindset when we have a full complement of players.  And now we’ve got something.”

“The challenge is to make sure there is 100% buy-in throughout the lineup.  The area of our identity that we’ve lost a little bit is the hard to play against aspect.”

“When we’ve had success as a group, with this very same core of players, we were a team that could score goals.  But I think what went unnoticed or not discussed much was we were hard to play against.  We had back pressure on the puck, we had sticks, we defended hard, we limited opportunities at the net.”

“In order to have success, regardless of what your strategy is, you have to become a team that is difficult to play against.  Everybody has to be held accountable to it and everybody has to take ownership for it.”

Sullivan said it’s often hard to know how players will react.  Saying one of the biggest challenges of coaching is dealing with human nature.

The 51 year-old Pens coach says he is on the same page as general manager Jim Rutherford and will continue to study his team and others to see if they need to change their strategies going forward.

“I believe we have a great working relationship,” Sullivan said of Rutherford.  “Jim is a good communicator.  He encourages our input and our feedback.  I think in all of the discussions we’ve had since we’ve been together, we tend to see the game in a similar way.  We share the same vision on how to play stylistically in order to maximize the group.”

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