Pretty much the last thing you should expect is for Penguins coach Mike Sullivan to go bananas over an October loss, even one as rotten as what transpired at United Center on Thursday night.
Does that mean he won't get irritated? Of course not. Sullivan fumed afterward, and deservedly so. As Sullivan reiterated Friday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, "We were all embarrassed, quite honestly. None of us want to go through that experience."
The experience to which Sullivan was referring, of course, was the Penguins' 10-1 beatdown at the hands of a really good Chicago team, the worst loss of Sullivan's tenure here and one he called "disturbing."
A day later, Sullivan sacked practice a few hours before its scheduled start time in favor of a video session, one in which he peppered his players with clips from the Chicago game. No word on whether anyone puked.
After the 60-minute session concluded, Sullivan was upbeat and generally optimistic that his team will be able to turn things around rather quickly.
"We believe in them," Sullivan said. "We know they'll respond the right way. We're not going to overreact to this. We're going to heed the lessons.
"It starts with an attitude when we come to the rink in the morning. We have to make sure that we come with the right attitude, that we're ready and willing to play the game the right way."
Sullivan offered plenty of thoughtful, strong and well-articulated comments during his 10-minute session with the media. Here are a few takeaways from that:
– The coaching staff is discussing changes.
Whether they'll include more juggling of lines and defense pairings – Sullivan got a head start when things went sideways against the Blackhawks – or bringing Josh Archibald or Chad Ruhwedel into the fold remains unclear.
But there's a good chance you'll see something different. And soon.
"We have some ideas going into tomorrow's game," said Sullivan, never one to shy away from a bold lineup change. "What I've always liked about this group of players that we have is we have some versatility in being able to move people around depending on who our opponent is or how our team is going at a particular time."
– The issues plaguing the Penguins – they've given up 15 goals in two games – are more mental than physical.
Or, at least by saying what he said, Sullivan could prefer that his team walk before trying to run.
"For me, it starts with a mindset," Sullivan said. "I said that (Thursday) night after the game. It's hard to win in this league. Right now, more so than results, our coaching staff is concerned or focused on just the mindset or the commitment level to play the game the right way. I think when this team starts there, we're competitive and we can play with anybody."
– If we are going to talk X's and O's, Sullivan identified two things he'd like to see change.
One, the Penguins' play with the puck. Essentially, to be more way careful with it.
"When we don't manage the puck appropriately, we give teams freebies," Sullivan said. "We give them opportunities that are high-quality. That was the case on a lot of the goals (Thursday) night. When you look at the genesis of some of those scoring chances, it started with our lack of diligence to manage the puck in the critical areas of the rink."
This has been a problem when the Penguins have struggled under Sullivan dating back to 2015-16 – OK, they didn't struggle much then – and it's hardly uncommon for skilled hockey clubs.
Good offensive players are, by nature, risk-takers. When those gambles backfire, well ... you have the dumpster fire that transpired Thursday night.
– The second thing Sullivan would like to see change is for the Penguins to be a little more physical in their own end. And while Sullivan admitted that the Penguins aren't exactly built to bang, they need to do something, anything.
"We've got to create separation from the puck," Sullivan said. "We've got to get into peoples' bodies. We've got to disrupt puck possession. We've got to stop cycles. We have to do that by playing to our strengths. We have to use our skill sets to win puck battles.
"At the end of the day, it boils down to some element of physicality. That's what has been absent in our play away from the puck, I think, most specifically in our end zone. Even on the forecheck, we're anticipating that next play and peeling off people instead of ... if we're a stick length (away), we're playing to someone not through someone."
– The Penguins get a chance to change all of that when a familiar foe enters the building Saturday in the Nashville Predators. Probably a good thing, too.
Sullivan's team responded to adversity plenty during the 2017 Stanley Cup final and throughout the playoffs the past two seasons. He's confident they're going to once again here.
"When you get stung like that, I think the most important takeaway is that we heed the lessons," Sullivan said. "Where are we going to go from here? How do we respond?
"We believe in this group. I know that we have what it takes to be competitive. We just have to heed the lessons."