“I think we did a great job as a team,” defenseman Adam Pelech said after the Islanders finished the series Thursday night with a 4-0 win over the Capitals in Game 5. “That takes everyone. It takes forwards, it takes defenders and good goalkeepers to limit a team like this on offense.
This is the second year in a row that Trotz has guided the Islanders to the second round of the playoffs after taking over a squad that had missed the playoffs two years in a row and had just lost its biggest star in John Tavares. The last time the Islanders won a playoff series in consecutive years was in 1984 and 1985 – the end of the franchise dynasty.
Last year’s playoffs ended when the Islanders were swept away by the Hurricanes in the second round. This time around – after handling the Panthers in Stanley Cup qualifier and then dismantling the Capitals in the first round – they look set to have a better chance in the second round as they went on Friday off.
“People don’t recognize how difficult it is to qualify for the playoffs,” Trotz said. “This first lap, to cross it, is extremely difficult. We have already done two in this new format. That says a lot about our group. They have good focus, they understand how you have to play, how hard you have to play, how intense and disciplined he is, how focused and committed you have to be to be successful. They were able to do it.
“It’s good for the management group. It starts at the top with [general manager Lou Lamoriello], down to our players and our leadership from Anders Lee and [Josh] Bailey et [Johnny] Boychuk and the people like it. Then you see the growth of some of our young players, like a Beauvillier and a Barzal and a guy like Brock Nelson, who doesn’t have enough credit in the league …… It’s a team effort. Then you add some songs like an Andy Greene, [who] fits very well, and a [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau. It kind of balances everything. ”
Trotz made the playoffs all four years he was with the Capitals before ending his tenure in Washington with a Stanley Cup in 2018. They did so with big names like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie racking up the points, John Carlson leads the blue line and Braden Holtby locks it into the net.
At least outside of Long Island, the Islanders may not seem to have the same punch with Beauvillier, Barzal, Nelson and Bailey providing the points, Pelech and Ryan Pulock handling the top defensive pair duties and Semyon Varlamov passing. to the net. But throughout the range they have adhered to the Trotz system and are reaping the rewards once again.
“When we get on the ice, everyone knows what they’re doing,” Varlamov said. “We believe in this structure and we believe in our coaching staff.”
With his old team now in the rearview mirror, Trotz is back to pursue the same goal.
“I had invested so much with this group of key players. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me, ”he says. “I try to have these same relationships with my group and I hope we can share something special.”