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Sullivan Does Postgame with Gritted Teeth, Seethes After 2-0 Loss

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Pittsburgh Penguins Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan earned a little brusqueness. While he was obviously furious after his team flatlined in a 2-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders, he did not vent on the media on Sunday evening. He wasn’t belittling or demonstrative, emotions his former boss John Tortorella would flash during tense situations. Though a few more words may have been on the tip of Sullivan’s tongue.

Sullivan held his fire with the media but his seething anger at his team’s performance could hardly be contained. Or blamed.

No one would blame him if he let a few of us have it, either. We are a pack of hyenas, especially after bad losses. Instead, he bit his tongue but did have a few curt answers.

After sitting through his postgame, one can imagine the words he had for his team after they had just two shots in the first period and never really challenged the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.

As one of a few reporters who have covered Sullivan’s entire tenure, this was the angry version of Mike Sullivan we’ve seen only sparingly. Clearly, he was not a happy camper after his team fell at least two points out of a playoff spot and did so with yet another effort that omitted large portions of the game.

We’ve slightly condensed the questions for easy reading. The answers are verbatim.

Q1: The penalty kill has given up a goal in 15 of the 20 games you’ve played this year, is there any common theme that has led to futility in that area?

“It’s a number of things. It’s just not good enough. We’ve got to be better.”

Q2: Was there anything before the game that gave you a sense of the kind of first period your team would have?

“No.”

Q3: John Marino mentioned they played hard high in the zone. Was there anything that the players maybe weren’t prepared for or that surprised you?

“No.”

“Every team plays in the top half of the offensive zone. With the way teams play in this league, with collapsed coverage, the only way to spread them out is to play in the top half of the offensive zone. It’s a common theme, more and more, that is the way the game is evolving.

We do the same thing. We just didn’t play nearly enough there tonight.”

Q4: The penalty kill looked like it was beginning to turn a corner. There were four games against the Washington Capitals where you allowed just one goal in 11 chances. Which side tells the accurate story? Are you starting to make improvements or relapsed?

“We are what we are.

We’re giving up too many goals there.

It’s not good enough.”

Q5: What would the score have been if Casey DeSmith did not play as well as he did?

“Casey played good.”

–End–

Reading the questions back, we can be annoying. Sullivan typically gives extended answers but even his patience seems to be ending with a team that is 11-8-1 and has not put pieces of the puzzle together for more than one game in a row.

Sullivan typically speaks for seven or eight minutes. He clocked in at a Ramones-like 1:56, including questions, on Sunday.

Fans often want coaches to flip tables or turn the air blue on players after losses like this, but that rarely happens. I transcribed the Sunday postgame presser because I think you share Sullivan’s irritation and frustration.

Juggling lines. Benching players. In this stage of the season, he is the little Dutch boy plugging his finger in the levy. As he addresses one problem, two more spring forth.

GM Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke haven’t yet been on the job for a month, but they may be pressed into action sooner than they anticipated.

A few more wins sure would make the Pittsburgh Penguins postgames more pleasant.

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan:

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Katz
Katz
7 months ago

Mike you were swept 4-0 by this Islander team in 2019. You were beaten by the 23rd ranked team last year in the qualifying round.last season.

Why do you think this team can do any
better ?

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
7 months ago

Mike I like you but this team if it makes the playoffs will be in and out. The fastest team doesn’t win anymore. You need a larger team with some physicality and some speed to matchup with the Isles and Flyers and Capitals. You were given Reaves and you wouldn’t play him. Regretfully Mike I don’t think this group of players are getting your message?

Chip Rachnson
Chip Rachnson
7 months ago

Watch what the Flyers do to this team 3 games in a Row doubt if they get one point

Ether
Ether
7 months ago

Tactics.

Big b
Big b
7 months ago

EFFORT IS THE PROB, not size or speed.The team is 11-8-1 sir.

Big B
Big B
7 months ago

Fix Malkin fix the effort, lose Malkin lose the prob.This all started in the last third of last season when he reverted to his old careless ways and yet everybody was in awe because the points were still goin in.I am with Mark Madden he should have been traded after the 2018 playoff loss to the CAPS.DK on Pittsburgh sports thinks Malkin is the key problem and all the rest is meaningless.

jackw
jackw
7 months ago
Reply to  Big B

You just quoted two of the biggest yinzer dopes in Pittsburgh. Careless and lazy perfectly describes your totally lame attempt at hockey analysis.

Big B
Big B
7 months ago
Reply to  jackw

What an intelligent rebutal.

Big B
Big B
7 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Not laying it all on Malkin but he is the key.

Hockey mom
Hockey mom
7 months ago

Am I the only one seeing that one of the common denominators when the other team scores, is Letang or Petterson are on the ice every time. Letang gets us goals but his defending is becoming more like Kessel. We can’t keep praising a guy who gets a goal here and there but is one of our weak links in our defense.

D1VE is Dumb
D1VE is Dumb
7 months ago
Reply to  Hockey mom

At least Letang adds some offense. I cringe every time Pettersson is on the ice. He has a terrible time getting the puck out of his own end and adds absolutely nothing at the other end of the ice. He is too soft to play in the NHL. He is scared to take a hit to make a play. Trade Pettersson to Ottawa for Gudbranson ASAP.

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