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Three key moves by Lou Lamoriello paying off for Islanders in postseason

Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello of the

 Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attend the NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.  Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

One could argue the Islanders have the best general manager/coach combo in New York-area pro sports, but that presupposes there is an argument to be had.

There is not. It is the Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz.

That has been evident for two years now, but never more so than during the Islanders’ 8-2 postseason start.

Trotz keeps making lineup decisions that work, and Lamoriello’s roster handiwork keeps allowing him to do so.

Before going any further, we must acknowledge this: The core of the roster was built by Garth Snow, Lamoriello’s predecessor, and he deserves credit for that.

But in addition to joining Trotz in a cultural and stylistic overhaul, Lamoriello has shaped to his liking what Snow left behind.

Last summer, he opted to keep the roster largely intact by re-signing three free-agent forwards, but he let goalie Robin Lehner go to Chicago and instead signed veteran Semyon Varlamov.

Assuming Varlamov shuts out the Flyers for 40 seconds in Game 2 of a second-round playoff series on Wednesday, he will break Billy Smith’s 1980 team record of 136 minutes, 59 seconds for scoreless playoff goaltending.

This comes after a game in which the first two goals were scored by Andy Greene and J-G Pageau, both of whom Lamoriello traded for in February.

So the Islanders’ three most prominent additions since the end of last season played central roles in their 4-0 victory in Game 1.

Lamoriello, 77, who won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, long has been one of the most fascinating characters in metropolitan-area sports.

He was named head coach at Providence College at age 26 in 1968 (when Trotz was 6 years old) and has been a force of hockey nature ever since – indefatigable, inscrutable and in charge. Always, always in charge.

Fact is, most of the hockey world is a little afraid of him and never is quite sure what he is thinking or will be up to next.

He also runs a tight ship, among many other things keeping a lid on media access to anyone other than himself, Trotz and players.

Early in 2019, Lamoriello agreed to talk to me for a story about a particularly painful Providence hockey loss 40 years ago, and he was a good sport about it.

Soon after it was published, he (coincidentally, I think) was standing near a vending machine at Barclays Center when I went for a snack and he (good-naturedly, I think) used a naughty word in connection with my story.

But was it a coincidence? Had he researched my snacking history and known about the dark chocolate Kit-Kats? Had he been waiting there for 24 hours, knowing I would show up eventually?

With Lou, one never knows. But one always knows he is prepared.

“He’s as straight to the point as you’re going to get; there’s no sugar-coating,” Matt Martin said. “As long as you are doing your job and at least putting the work ethic and effort in, he’s got his players’ back 100%.”

Brock Nelson was speaking on Tuesday about the path that led the Islanders to this point and said, “It started, I think, right from Day One when all those changes and the overhaul took place. Barry and Lou and everybody here has done a great job. They’re high end. They run a tight ship, very detailed.”

Trotz said on Monday that one benefit of working with Lamoriello is that he understands coaches, having done it himself. On Tuesday, I asked how that manifests itself.

“Lou has coached, he’s managed, he’s done all those things,” Trotz said. “So I think he has a really good perspective on how they are all connected and how the outcomes and the feelings and the emotions of winning or losing affects everybody around.”

When I asked Lamoriello about his emotions last season after the Islanders took a 2-0 first-round lead over the Penguins, he went into full-blown Lou-mode with this gem:

“I’m not an emotional person, so I don’t know what that means. But if you’re asking me if you feel good when the end results come out on a positive, absolutely. But you don’t rest on it.”

Game 2 is next. Lamoriello will be ready.

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