Rest is at a premium in the grueling Stanley Cup playoffs.
That can be the physical rest of an off-day, or the mental break from the intense competition. Sometimes, it’s just an escape from the outside distractions that can intensify during the postseason. Which is why some NHL teams house their players at hotels prior to home playoff games.
Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello was a proponent of that practice in his previous NHL stops with the Devils and Maple Leafs, though he’s given no indication of whether that will be the case for his current team. It’s a pertinent consideration with the Islanders’ home playoff games shifting from NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center after the Islanders swept the Penguins in four games in the first round.
Almost all of the players and staff live near Uniondale, allowing them to conveniently take their pre-game naps after the morning skates when games are played at the Coliseum. The routine becomes more complicated with a commute to Brooklyn.
“It all depends on the set of circumstances,” Lamoriello said. “We did not have the players stay in the first round at home. We’ll just see what the best thing is. We communicate with the players. A lot depends upon the families, young children. It’s never a mistrust. It’s taking them into a situation where the distractions are at a minimum and they understand that. The further you go, the more distractions there are, in every way.”
The team hotel used to be mandatory with the Devils after Lamoriello took over in 1988 through Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003. It wasn’t until 2010 when Jamie Langenbrunner argued that the stays should be optional to Lamoriello and coach Jacques Lemaire that they became so.
The Maple Leafs made the playoffs in the last two of Lamoriello’s three seasons as the team’s general manager. Islanders left wing Matt Martin, who played for the Maple Leafs the previous two seasons, said the team hotel was optional last season.
“We did the hotels the one year, we didn’t do the hotels the next year, they were optional,” Martin said. “It was kind of like they are here for some guys with kids to be able to make sure you get a good night’s sleep and you’re doing whatever you have to do to get optimal rest. A few guys took advantage of that and the wives and girlfriends are very understanding of that, as well.
“It just gives guys an opportunity to get away or if family is in town, to get away from some distractions and make sure you just focus on good sleep or, on game day, a nap,” Martin added.
Martin said as the playoffs progress, more and more friends or family text or contact players.
“People want to come see games, either at home or on the road,” Martin said. “To see a playoff game is a cool experience. As you get deeper and deeper, more people want to be there. It can be crazy. That’s why it’s good to have hotel options.”
Lamoriello’s first season as an NHL executive in 1988 saw his upstart Devils, who finished fourth in the Patrick Division, beat the division-champion Islanders in six games in the first round. The Devils won two of the three games played at the Coliseum.
But Lamoriello vividly recalled the raucous atmosphere at the Coliseum.
He thought the two games against the Penguins this year were even more intense.
“I remember playing in here my first year, I knew how loud they were then,” Lamoriello said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York Radio on Wednesday. “They’re a little louder now. Either that, or my hearing is different.”
The hot lap
Barry Trotz has lauded how even-keeled the Islanders remained as they swept the Penguins, despite allowing the first goal in each of the last three games. But the coach has some tricks to pull out in case his team loses its calm.
For instance, the hot lap.
Last season as he coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup, a selected player would do a fast lap around the rink before the game-day morning skate began. Captain Alex Ovechkin picked Trotz to have that honor before Game 7 of their Eastern Conference final against the Lightning.
The Capitals responded with a 4-0 win at Tampa Bay.
“I might have to pull it out if we get tense,” Trotz said. “It would probably be slower this year. I’m not in quite as good shape as last year. I had fun. Playoffs are fun. If they’re not fun, then you’re not going to have success. You’ve got to have joy in the competition.”
The Islanders’ four-game ouster of the Penguins in the first round marked the first time in coach Barry Trotz’s 20 NHL seasons one of his teams has swept a playoff series. Here’s how many sweeps the other coaches remaining in this postseason have engineered:
Mike Babcock (Maple Leafs, 16 NHL seasons) – 5
John Tortorella (Blue Jackets, 17 NHL seasons) – 2
Pete DeBoer (Sharks, 11 NHL seasons) – 1
Gerard Gallant (Golden Knights, eight NHL seasons) – 1
Peter Laviolette (Predators, 17 NHL seasons) – 1
Paul Maurice (Jets, 21 NHL seasons) – 0
Bruce Cassidy (Bruins, five NHL seasons) – 0
Jared Bednar (Avalanche, three NHL seasons) – 0
Craig Berube (Blues, three NHL seasons) – 0
Rod Brind’Amour (Hurricanes, one NHL season) – 0
Jim Montgomery (Stars, one NHL season) – 0
Todd Reirden (Capitals, one NHL season) – 0