These are tense times for the Islanders, for sure, with two weeks left in the regular season and their inconsistent performances too often skewing to the poorer side.
But coach Barry Trotz won’t be seen fretting behind the bench, other than some hard-to-see nervous foot movement. Projecting an air of calmness is one of the building blocks he’s constructed in a successful 20-season career in the NHL.
“Yeah, 100 percent,” left wing Matt Martin said. “His calmness on the bench is contagious. At the end of the day, he’s the leader behind the bench. If he’s yelling and screaming at the referees or if the other team turns momentum on us and he gets screaming and yelling, then everybody gets flustered. But he’s always calm back there. He’s always composed.
“It’s kind of helped us as a group from a maturity level in a lot of ways,” Martin added. “We handle situations a lot better than maybe we would have in the past. I think it’s helped us win some games maybe we didn’t deserve to win. Instead of letting things unravel, we’re sticking with it and waiting for our opportunities.”
Trotz has acknowledged a maturing process as an NHL coach — that would be only natural — since he took over the expansion Predators in 1998 at age 36.
Now, he’s 56, one of four coaches to have reached 800 wins, and he led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season.
“I still get panicked at times, all coaches do,” Trotz said. “You’ll see the old duck feet moving pretty fast under the bench. But I think (staying calm) helps. Last year was an exceptional experience. Last year was as calm as you can see. I had the most fun last year and the team had the best year ever.”
Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said Trotz has a knack for knowing when something needs to be said to the players during a game, but added that sense of calm, “stabilizes our bench and it keeps our bench in the right spot.”
It’s an extension of Trotz’s been-there, done-that, seen-pretty-much-everything off-ice personality.
Not every coach is as successful at projecting that sense of calm.
Martin, 29, was re-acquired by the Islanders after spending the last two seasons with the Maple Leafs.
“I’ve been here in the past where we’ve had a pretty yappy bench, especially us as players,” said Martin, who has also played for Scott Gordon and Jack Capuano with the Islanders. “Referees didn’t like us too much. When things weren’t going well, we’d start bickering and bickering at each other, which is kind of your initial reaction when things aren’t going well, right?
“But Barry kind of tells us to shut the heck up,” Martin added. “He tells us we’re fine, stay calm. It just shows how much experience he has. He puts things in perspective for us and allows us to be more mature as a group and handle situations better to where we’re not letting the emotions ever get the best of us. We’re just trying to stick to the task.”
Martin is not a pure enforcer — that role barely exists in the NHL anymore — but he does have a well-deserved reputation as one of the league’s toughest fighters. Entering Saturday, the 6-3, 220-pound left wing had fought 70 times for the Islanders and 19 times for the Maple Leafs in his nine seasons, per hockeyfights.com.
On Tuesday, he took on Boston behemoth Zdeno Chara, trying to spark the lifeless Islanders at the start the second period of an eventual 5-0 loss at the Coliseum.
Martin and the 6-9, 250-pound Chara both landed blows. Not surprisingly, the Bruins captain won the bout, eventually knocking Martin to the ice, then helping him back up and giving him a pat on the back.
Martin’s biggest challenge was trying to get close enough to hit Chara while avoiding the big man’s blows. So, Martin was asked if there was a strategy in fighting Chara.
“It’s a really good question,” Martin said. “He’s a big, strong guy. He’s been in a few of them himself. You’re definitely trying to get his right arm and that’s not the easiest thing in the world when you’re swinging and coming up pretty short. It’s not a good feeling. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a tough customer and he’s a hell of a player. It’s not an easy strategy going in there, for sure.”
Using his words
Left wing Anthony Beauvillier drew a large media crowd around his pre-game locker stall at Bell Centre on Thursday as the hometown kid coming back to Montreal. The 21-year-old grew up about 50 miles away in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.
First, Beauvillier answered questions in English. But then the French-speaking media surrounded him. That afforded Beauvillier the chance to converse in his first language, something he rarely gets to do living on Long Island.
“It’s fun,” Beauvillier said. “I don’t get to use it much. I’ve kind of lost it a little bit, already.”
Here’s how the Islanders have fared against their final seven opponents, entering Sunday’s game against the Coyotes at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum:
Opponent Record Aggregate Score
Coyotes 1-0-0 3-1
Blue Jackets 3-0-0 8-2
Jets 0-1-0 1-3
Sabres 1-1-0 4-4
Maple Leafs 2-0-0 10-1
Panthers 0-1-1 4-7
Capitals 1-2-0 4-7