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— The job Mike Sullivan has done as Penguins coach has many within the NHL just astonished in how quickly he’s changed the culture and identity of the hockey club.

“It’s one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen in the last couple years,” a scout said of how fundamentally sound the Penguins have become under Sullivan compared to how they were under Mike Johnston in such a short-time.

One comparison a few NHL types have made in what Sullivan has done is what Barry Trotz did so quickly last season in Washington in his first year. The Capitals started a little slow out of the gates, but once there was a 100% buy-in, they surged near the end of the season, and were a bounce in Game 7 of overtime of knocking off the President Trophy winning Rangers in Round 2. Trotz culture and identity change in year one helped paved the way for the team they are now in year 2, a Stanley Cup Favorite.

Some feel Sullivan getting away from John Tortorella last season and working for the Blackhawks organization might have been the best thing for his career to see things in a different way in embracing a skilled game and how to handle star players more effectively.

Sullivan was known to be more hated by players in the Rangers room than John Tortorella was by the end of their tenures in New York. Those outside the Penguins organization strongly believe Sullivan has changed a lot after his year with the Blackhawks and it’s paid dividends in the job he’s done so far in Pittsburgh.

Tortorella is a good coach, a Stanley Cup winning coach, but one big difference between the two there now appears to be is that Sullivan’s of the belief you only go as far as your best players take you and he embraces that behind the Penguins bench, where as, Tortorella still coaches with that old school mentality of constantly sending messages as we’re seeing in Columbus and running 40 goal scorers out of town like Marian Gaborik when he had him in New York.


— From January 1 – March 1, the Penguins were 4-7-3 against teams in playoff position at the time. Since March 2nd, the Penguins are 10-1 against teams currently in a playoff position, the only loss coming to the Islanders. It’s been the story of their turnaround in going from a team that looked like it would struggle to win a round to now potentially being a serious threat to the Capitals.

Pens – Caps

— If the Penguins and Capitals were to meet in Round 2 of playoffs, Pittsburgh would be an underdog regardless of what happens in Thursday’s game, but if the Penguins can put together another dominating performance like the previous meeting where they dictated the play and pace, there’s no question it could start to cast some doubts in the Capitals room.

“When our team plays that game the right way, I think weโ€™re as good as any team in the league,โ€ Sullivan said after Sunday’s win. โ€œWe can beat anybody.โ€

Derrick Pouliot & the Press Box

— Now almost four years since he was drafted eighth overall (was rated #4 on Penguins draft board), Derrick Pouliot’s failure to still lock down a regular spot in the lineup continues to come down to the fact that his offense just isn’t good enough in the coaches eyes to keep him in the lineup over a less offensive but safer player.

This is a second coaching staff that feels the same exact way about him.

Some in the organization felt by now Pouliot would have at least distinguished himself as a player who would force his way into the lineup because of his ability on the power play. That also hasn’t happened and it’s been Justin Schultz who has emerged as a better option on the power play, further cementing Pouliot’s spot in the press box.

Now currently seventh on the depth chart, Pouliot will soon be eighth again with Olli Maatta working his way back.

“We just want him to play a steady game,” Mike Sullivan said last week about Pouliot, via the Tribune-Review. “Derrick has done a nice job as far as coming out of our end zone, making that first pass. We think that’s one of his strength’s, is he see’s the ice pretty well, he helps us get out of our end zone, and he’s pretty good at joining the rush. But, one of things we’ve talked a lot with Derrick about is just playing a high-percentage game, making sure that he makes the right decisions when he joins the rush and when he gets involved in the offense and when he needs to stay behind the attack in the event that he might have to defend.”

Looking back at the Phil Kessel trade, the Penguins privately would have loved if they could have sold the Maple Leafs on taking Pouliot over Kasperi Kapanen who would be a great fit long-term in Mike Sullivan’s system with his excellent acceleration and straight line speed. Unfortunately the Leafs weren’t big fans of Pouliot’s. The Leafs even preferred Kapanen over Matt Murray who at one point was involved in the trade over Kapanen.

Significant Offers were made for Murray

— Speaking of Murray, it’s been no secret that the Calgary Flames were one of two teams that tried very hard to acquire Murray multiple times this winter. Information has been scant on what type of offers were made until now. To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!