Adam Crowley

Adam Crowley

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Mike Sullivan's "just play" mantra is still sticking

There was plenty wrong with the Pittsburgh Penguins when Mike Sullivan took over as head coach. I think the team's biggest problem was its inability to maintain composure in big spots.

In his first year as head coach, Mike Sullivan repeated the mantra, "just play." In essence, he was telling his team to turn the other cheek.

That's not something the Penguins were good at doing. In 2012, they unraveled in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers. It's as embarrassed as I've ever been watching Pens hockey.

In 2013, the team was obviously frustrated in the Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins. Crosby tried to fight Chara for God's sake.

Under Sullivan, the team has turned a big weakness into a strength. Last night, against the Lightning, the Pens toed the line perfectly between being physical and losing composure.

Tampa registered an absurd 59 hits. Kris Letang was clearly being targeted. In a pre-Mike Sullivan life, Letang may have lost his cool. He didn't in this one.

Despite the Lightning clearly having it out for the star defenseman and Matt Murray, the Penguins only took two penalties in the game. That's composure.

It's Sullivan's 4th year on the job and the Pens are still heeding his words. "Just play."

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