On Sunday the Pens and Sharks held their Stanley Cup Final Media Day. Here is what head coach Mike Sullivan, GM Jim Rutherford and the players had to say.
General Manager Jim Rutherford
Rutherford on his initial meeting with Crosby and Malkin:
I met Sid shortly after I took the job (in 2014). The one thing that I knew right from the start was his passion for the game and his leadership qualities. Basically what he said is that we’ll do what it takes to win. In Geno’s case, he has that same passion for the game. I didn’t meet with him immediately. He was in Russia. Over time with short conversations – because everybody that knows Geno, that’s usually what they are – he really cared for the team, cared about Pittsburgh and cared about winning a championship.
Head Coach Mike Sullivan
On if a year ago he thought he’d be here:
Probably not. This wasn’t something I envisioned this quickly. When you get into this profession it’s this type of experience that we all aspire to be a part of. Fortunately for me I got a great opportunity here to coach a great group of players that have played extremely hard to get us here. We don’t take one day for granted. We’re excited about this opportunity.
On coaching Crosby and Malkin:
Both Sid and Geno have bought into the team concept that we tried to implement. Fortunately for us, we have a group of players and team that’s deep. We have the ability to use our whole bench. With the type of game we’re trying to play, a speed game, it takes a lot of energy to play this style that we’re trying to play. Our ability to use the bench helps all of us, Sid and Geno included, to play the type of game that we need to play in order to create a competitive advantage. Sid and Geno are two guys that have taken a very unselfish approach. They’ve put the team ahead of themselves. Because of that I think we have evolved into a team in the true sense of the word.
When I coached against him all those years I had an appreciation for how good he is. That’s obvious. When you have an opportunity to get to know someone on a personal level, work with him day in and day out, I’ve grown more respectful and have more admiration for his care-factor and his professionalism, as far as how he goes about his business everyday. Everybody in the hockey world sees how talented he is as a player. I can you tell you by watching him everyday that it’s not by accident that he’s as good as he is. He works extremely hard. I don’t know if I’ve been around a player in all the years that I’ve been associated with this league with a work ethic like Sid’s. He’s the first guy on the ice every single day. His fitness level off the ice and how he trains away from the rink, he takes with the same commitment as he does when he’s on the ice. The way he lives his life. Everything about him is about how he creates a competitive advantage for himself. Watching it everyday, I’ve grown to have more respect and admiration for the type of effort that he puts in that’s necessary to be the best player in the world.
On facing San Jose in the Final, the team he started his playing career for:
I think the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in sports to win. Just to have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup at this time of year is a great thrill for me. Is it ironic that it’s against San Jose? Probably. I’m not a picky guy. I would play against anybody for this opportunity.
On going from contemplating retirement at this point last year to competing for the Stanley Cup:
It’s been an unbelievable last season, last year. I had thought that last year may have been the end of the road for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for a long time and when it worked out to come here, I was excited about it. Did I expect to be here at this point of the season? I don’t know. Obviously Jim (Rutherford) had made some moves that he was obviously aggressively pursuing it, but yeah, I mean, you just kind of shake your head. And I’ve said a lot, I feel really blessed to be here and I’m really happy things worked out the way they did.
On watching the ‘young pups’ go through this experience:
It’s fun. I remember being here the first time and it’s impossible not to be excited. I’m excited. We’re all excited. This is what you play for, this is what you work for. You look back on all the summers that you’ve worked hard, all the many ups and downs we’ve all had in our individual careers and you find yourself here where you’ve always dreamed of being, I mean, it’s impossible not to be excited.
On going through this experience with his three boys:
It’s the best. I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s been really cool. I grew up a rink rat. My dad was a high school hockey coach, so I grew up in locker rooms my whole life. To be able to share that with my own boys at an age where they’ll remember it and they know what’s going on, it’s something you think you can never add more to the Stanley Cup but it adds a lot more to it. It just makes it so much more special for me and I can’t teach my kids how to pound a nail or do anything like that, but to be able to bring them to the rink and give them this experience, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. So it’s added a lot.
On if Murray’s calm demeanor affects them positively on the blue line:
One hundred percent. I think if your goalie’s in there and he lets in a goal and he doesn’t show emotion (where) he’s not blaming you guys for it, I mean sometimes, if a goal goes in on Murray it’s probably one of our faults. But he never points fingers and he’s just out there battling every next shift and every shift and I think that can only help us as a blue line.
On how the blue line has been able to continue performing regardless of which six guys are in:
We went through a lot of injuries during the year and we’ve all played with each other. In those situations (where) one of us has had to step up or a couple of us, I think that’s benefitted us going through those tough times during the regular season to get to where we are now. Jacques (Martin) and ‘Gonch’ (Sergei Gonchar) have been awesome for us. Jacques is great on the bench; he’s seen it all and that definitely helps. Gonch was so good as a player and he won a Stanley Cup and he just brings these little details in between periods and after games that help you as a player. I mean, it might not be a big part of your game but he’ll bring it in, it’s a little thing you can fine tune and it helps you in those crucial situations.
On his experience in the playoff run:
I try to focus on getting better and better every day and learning more and more every day and trying to improve as I go along here. But it’s only been a couple months, so it’s not like I’m a whole new goalie like you said. It’s not like I beat Lundqvist or anything like that. That couldn’t be further from the case. Our team beat the New York Rangers. There’s numerous times where I’ve had to bail them out or I’ve had a pretty mediocre game and we end up winning because we scored four goals, you know? Especially in the Tampa series, I thought I was pretty average. We were just able to score enough goals to where it didn’t matter, I guess. So as a team, we dominated most of that series and I know I definitely could have been better but we got the job done. I don’t know how I got so far off topic (laughs), but to answer your question, but no, I’m not a whole different goalie by any means.
On the instant his injury happened:
I knew it was bad. I was just hoping to get back in front of the net. I knew the whistle wasn’t going to be blown until we had the puck. I didn’t even know what I was going to do, maybe help the goalie or something, I don’t know.
On if he’ll still be around and involved with the team:
I’ll be around. Involved? I don’t know about being involved but they ain’t going to keep me away. I’ll be around for all of this. If they tell me I have to stay away, I’m going to find a way to get in here.
On how long it took to adjust with the changes:
It took a little time to adjust to the system. It wasn’t really until the end of the season when we went on that little heater. It seemed like we were winning with everybody. That’s when our team felt like we were becoming more well-rounded.
On the most difficult thing to change:
Maybe not so much for me, but for the other guys, we had to tone down the fancy plays. We don’t have to make highlight reel goals all the time. That was something we tried to do a lot earlier in the season.
On watching west coast games:
I go to bed at 10 o'clock right now. I don't watch any west coast games. I’m a total east coast homer. When I lived in California we would have every east coast game on at four just because it was available.
On his mentality after sitting out:
Just play. I haven’t over thought anything. Just go out there and play.
On his childhood allegiance:
I was a Penguins fan as a kid. I watched them before I was in the NHL. They were fun to watch. It was pretty sweet to come here.
On playing with Crosby and Malkin on the PP:
You just give them the puck and they’ll make a play to release the pressure. They want me to shoot, which makes it easy. I don’t have to pass to them all the time; they want me to shoot. They’re great to work with.
On the change with the team:
We’ve had to change the way we play to win hockey games. It’s worked out. It’s hard to change your game when you’ve played in the league for so long, but you’re always trying to improve your game.
He’s a good coach. He’s a serious guy with a funny side. He’s done a really great job since getting here.
On the atmosphere in Pittsburgh:
It’s a great sports town. Everybody is crazy and recognizes you. Everyone wants to give you a handshake before the finals. I couldn’t be more proud of this town and how the fans have been.
On playing with Crosby:
He’s the best player in the world. I just try to get open and create some space. People don’t understand how hard our top guys work. They work on their skill everyday. It brings everybody else to that level. People want to come earlier and stay longer, trying to get better everyday.
Off the ice he’s one of the guys to be around. He makes everything else less serious. He calms me down before games. You don't know what to expect out of him before games and that’s what I like about him.
On overcoming his slow start:
I’ve had other seasons where I didn’t like my game until Christmas. That’s why I didn’t worry at all when I got here. When you get that offensive confidence you just keep rolling.
On mentoring from the veterans:
We can’t say enough about what the older guys have done bringing us in. Especially with all of the younger guys who've come up. It's probably difficult to transition to a younger team. When you’re called up with someone else it helps because not all eyes are on you. It’s spread out between a few guys.