These aren’t ‘desperate’ times for Penguins, coach Mike Sullivan says
A large percentage of NHL players, including Sidney Crosby, often talk about the need to play the game with desperation.
It may just be a matter of semantics, but Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan isn’t a fan of that approach.
Trailing 2-0, the Penguins will face the New York Islanders in a de facto must-win Game 3 of a first-round series Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.
Sullivan wants his players to compete hard. He wants them to shore up their mistakes from the first two games. He doesn’t want them to be desperate.
“A lot of people use the word desperation to describe certain situations. I’m not sure I like that word because it implies a certain level of hopelessness associated with it,” Sullivan said. “I try to avoid that word a lot because I just don’t think that’s the mindset that we need.
“We’re in complete control of the circumstance. We just have to make sure we go out and we win a game. That’s what we told our players. We can’t control what’s going to happen three days from now and we certainly can’t change what’s already occurred. All we can do at this point is respond the right way and stay in the moment.”
Coaches in a 2-0 hole in a playoff series can talk about that deficit in a number of ways. Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper called his team’s situation a “five-alarm fire.” Sullivan’s rhetoric has followed more of a stay-the-course theme.
That’s the type of message Sullivan believes his locker room will respond to.
“We have a mature group,” Sullivan said. “They’re well aware of the situation we’re in. It’s really about responding the right way. You have to play the game with a sense of urgency. You have to play the game with a certain compete level that gives you a chance to win each and every night. There should be a heightened sense of urgency given the situation that we’re in, but that’s what it takes to win at this time of year anyway.”
When it comes to personnel decisions, Sullivan said his entire lineup will be a game-time decision in the playoffs.
In this case, that idea applies most directly to forward Jared McCann, who missed Game 2 with an upper-body injury. McCann practiced Saturday without restriction and expressed hope that he’d be able to play in Game 3.
Beyond that, expect a different look from Sullivan’s line combinations on Sunday. At Saturday’s practice, Dominik Simon was bumped up to the top line with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby while Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel were reunited on the second line.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .