When Barry Trotz, now the head coach of the New York Islanders, received his Stanley Cup ring in November, he issued a few words of encouragement to his former team. And a warning.
"You can do it again too," Trotz said of the Capitals’ chances to win a second Stanley Cup, "You'll have to go through the [expletive] Island, okay? But you guys can do it again."
At the time, it seemed unlikely the Islanders would be much of a factor in the postseason. New York missed the playoffs in 2018 and saw its best player, John Tavares, depart for Toronto over the offseason.
Yet, Trotz’s November speech has proven prophetic as the Islanders now await the winner of the Capitals-Carolina Hurricanes first-round series. New York completed a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday marking the second consecutive season Trotz has been able to get the better of Mike Sullivan and the Penguins after losing to them in each of the two seasons prior.
The Islanders’ victory prevents a fourth consecutive Capitals-Penguins second-round series this season. Sidney Crosby was held to only a single point and no goals in the series as New York’s newfound defense suffocated Pittsburgh. The Penguins scored only six goals in four games and only one goal in each of the last three.
Trotz’s familiarity with the Penguins is no surprise given that he has coached against them in the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. Obviously he knows the Caps even better after coaching Washington for four seasons from 2014 to 2018. What tricks will he have up his sleeve to slow down Alex Ovechkin and Co.?
The Caps hold a 2-1 series lead against Carolina in what has been a dogfight of a series thus far. While the team cannot begin to look ahead, that may prove difficult knowing such a familiar face is waiting for them in the second round.
What was a funny line in November has now become the truth. If the Caps hope to defend their Stanley Cup title it will mean going “through the [expletive] Island” to get there.
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