As a head coach there’s only so much you can do to lead a team to victory. It’s on you to make the proper lineups, the right game plan, the correct preparation and adjustments, and of course, some motivation. At the end of the day though it’s all up to the players once they hit the ice.
Coach Mike Sullivan, however, does everything he possibly can to give his team the edge, and it’s through the challenge.
The Colorado game didn’t see any goals scored until the 3rd period, but the story could have been told differently after an early opportunity from Nathan MacKinnon.
Had it not been for coach Sullivan’s successful offsides challenge after MacKinnon’s goal, the Pens would have been down 1-0 after One, in a game that had the feel it would be low scoring.
Not only was it a difficult challenge to make, Sullivan also had to deal with the possible consequence of facing a penalty kill had he been wrong. You may forget that the NHL implemented a new rule that any failed challenge on an offside goal would give that team 2 minute penalty because of it.
For a play that was so damn close on offsides, this was a gutsy call to make. Down 1-0 and you go down a man? That will kill anyone’s enthusiasm.
This had me thinking though about other challenges Sullivan has made, and most of the time, he comes out successful.
He might be one of the best coaches in the NHL in winning challenges.
You think after the Pens let up a goal that he’s hanging his head down in shame? No, he’s just checking the monitor to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
Many head coaches aren’t fans of new technology or challenges, but Sullivan has used it to his advantage.
He was the first coach in the history of hockey to challenge something in the playoffs, but their are two other playoff challenges that exemplify how great he is at it. Better yet how affective.
The first came in 2016 during game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. You may recall it was a must win as the Pens were down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It had looked like the Lightning were going to get off to a 1-0 start early in their own building, before Sullivan challenged the goal on the grounds of offsides.
After the review, the refs found the Pens right, and momentum completely swung towards them. Long story short, they won that game, than game 7, and then finished it off by winning the 2016 Cup.
Once again, that game 6 could have saw the Pens be eliminated if they started out on the opposing side of the lead.
The second Sully moment came in the infamous offside call of the alleged first goal in the 2017 Cup Final. We know the story by now, P.K. Subban scored, but the play was challenged and once again the Pens were awarded the no goal, despite the call being controversial.
This is not to say that this goal decided the series, clearly it was only game 1, but you can’t deny how it boosted the Penguins in such a very difficult series that saw them repeating, going as the 2017 Stanley Cup champs.
Also, happy anniversary coach Sullivan! Two years ago on the twelfth, he officially became head coach of the Penguins. In that span he’s helped lead the team to 2 consecutive Stanley Cups. Some great stats, but that’s just my opinion…
I don’t mean to keep bringing up the past because this 17-18′ squad is a new team, but those plays jump out at me. I’m merely trying to point out the importance of Sullivan’s execution of the ruling.
His challenge on Monday night once more elaborated that Sullivan is more than just a guy who was given Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, thus not earning his success. His hockey smarts and adjustments have got him where he’s at today. Which is one phenomenal coach.