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Insider Only Benz: What We Learned From Mike Sullivan’s Coaching Debut

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ON MIKE SULLIVAN’S DEBUT BEHIND THE BENCH

Washington Capitals

Beau Bennett is hurt again. But that’s probably not a fair assessment as to whether or not anything will change with Mike Sullivan as the new coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Only a yet to be discovered alignment of the planets will likely change that fate.

As far as matters that can be controlled by the human beings running the team, Monday night’s box score also suggests that the Mike Johnston-to-Mike Sullivan swap won’t yield much of a difference. Another loss (4-1 to Washington) in which Pittsburgh struggled offensively. Another empty effort on the power play. Another night where the Pens gave the puck away more often than they took it away.

But a deeper look at the numbers infers some good may come from the coaching change. The Penguins did generate 45 shots on goal. They uncorked 34 more that were either blocked or missed the net. They also tallied 34 scoring chances.

And, on a more intangible angle, they actually looked like they were trying hard. That was something that general manager Jim Rutherford said was lacking from his team under Johnston at times. But on Monday, the Pens went hit- for-hit with the Capitals (37-36 Pittsburgh). They battled in the faceoff circle winning 54% of draws. And Nick Bonino even got into a fight, a rare occurrence at Penguin games of late.

“I thought we played with energy. I liked our aggression. I thought we were on the puck. Our feet were moving,” said Sullivan after the loss.

So, that stuff was good….right?! That was the sign for hope that this coaching change may help the club…perhaps?

But some unfortunately familiar issues continued to plague the Penguins in Sullivan’s debut. One of which, by the admission of the players, was still an inability to get the puck out of their own end and through the neutral zone with consistency.

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About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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