Penguins' Sullivan: 'I've gotta do a better job coaching these guys'
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan took ownership of his team's inconsistent stretches throughout the campaign following yet another frustrating loss on Saturday.
"It's on all of us, it always is. It starts with me," he said following Pittsburgh's 6-4 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. "I've gotta do a better job coaching these guys and getting it out of them and making sure that the message is being heard.
"I think there’s been volatility in our game, and we've got to bring a consistent game every night ... and that's what we talk about with our guys a lot. We try to show them examples of what that looks like, when we're at our best. We've got to bring it more consistently, and when we do that, we're gonna give ourselves a chance to win on most nights."
The Penguins have stumbled into the break: They've only won consecutive games once since Christmas, and they'll have to try and shake off back-to-back losses when they return to action against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 7.
On top of that, the Penguins are in a dogfight of a playoff race, currently holding the second wild-card spot with a 24-16-9 record. But they only have a one-point advantage over the Buffalo Sabres, while the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers are two and three points behind, respectively.
There isn't much room for error if Pittsburgh wants to make the postseason for the 17th straight year, and Sullivan knows his squad has to be a tougher matchup for opposing teams down the stretch.
"We've got to do a better job, in my mind, at being harder to play against," he said. "We generate offense consistently, we score goals consistently. We've gotta do a better job keeping it out of our net ... and I think it starts with managing the puck.
"That goes through all four lines and our defense as well. We've gotta do a better job taking care of the puck, and I don't think we did a good job tonight. That was, I think, a direct result of some of the goals that were scored."
Sharks forward Mikey Eyssimont opened the scoring just 1:25 into Saturday's contest as the Penguins once again found themselves mired in a slow start, this time against a basement-dwelling team. Defenseman Erik Karlsson added insult to injury with a goal in the dying seconds of the opening frame.
Evgeni Malkin joined the fight with two goals and an assist, but Logan Couture ultimately dominated Pittsburgh with a five-point outing during the back-and-forth affair.
The Penguins now sit fifth in the Metropolitan Division, and veteran defenseman Kris Letang commented postgame on how difficult it is not to keep an eye on the standings with 33 games remaining in his team's campaign.
"When you're in that division, I think you're watching every day," he said. "One day you’re in the playoffs, and the other day you're not. It's a strong division. We have to make sure that we have a strong end of the season."
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