Visually, the Islanders looked crisp wearing their game jerseys rather than practice sweaters. Barry Trotz couldn’t say as much for the on-ice performance.
“I didn’t like a lot of the stuff today,” the coach said after Sunday’s scrimmage at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “Overall, I wouldn’t say I was happy with the whole group. There were portions I was happy with.”
So ends the first week of the Islanders’ Training Camp 2.0 as they prepare to restart their season with a best-of-5 qualifying series against the Panthers in Toronto beginning on Aug. 1. The Islanders depart for their quarantined arena/hotel bubble July 26.
Trotz never shies from bluntly honest assessments and publicly expressing displeasure over Sunday’s three-period scrimmage may also be a coaching tactic, trying to reinforce the reality that the elimination games are coming up quickly.
“I thought we weren’t on the puck,” Trotz said. “Some of our detail, we were really loose. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Some of our areas, we could tighten up for sure. Some of that might be a little bit fatigue. Some of that might be a little mindset. We’ve got to get that in order.”
And Trotz may also be trying to send a message that no player should feel secure in a lineup spot. He hinted some changes may be coming to his lines and defense pairings.
For the most part through training camp’s first six days on the ice, including three scrimmages, Trotz has kept his combinations intact from the regular season that was paused on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mathew Barzal has been centering captain Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle on the top line. Brock Nelson has been in between Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey on the second line, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard have anchored the third line with either Tom Kuhnhackl or Michael Dal Colle and a healthy Casey Cizikas has been back with Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck on the identity-setting fourth line.
Defensively, a healthy Adam Pelech has been reunited with top-pair partner Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews has been with Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy has been paired with Johnny Boychuk. That was the projected top six but Trotz said on Saturday Andy Greene and rookie Noah Dobson were “as good as any pair we’ve had.”
“I think some guys are moving up,” Trotz said on Sunday. “Some guys are earning an opportunity to be in the mix a little bit more.”
Trotz has also cited burly Ross Johnston as one of the forwards that “keeps making a statement” and said he noticed rookie Kieffer Bellows “a little bit” in Sunday’s scrimmage.
And while Trotz conceded Barzal’s top line, which accounted for all four of its squad’s goals, was skating well, he questioned how much of that was because Nelson’s line had trouble defensively.
“They’ve had better days,” Trotz said of Nelson’s line. “Beau was the guy that was really instrumental in them having success. He buried a couple of chances and hit a couple of posts. But that line was minus a couple today. That line needed to dial it in a little. But that line has been good the previous two scrimmages. They’ve been pushing hard. When you get fatigued, the mind goes and then everything else sort of goes.”
On a positive note, both Barzal and Beauvillier connected with power-play goals. Trotz did not incorporate special teams work into the on-ice work until Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I think the power play looks good,” Beauvillier said. “We just started working on it. It’s going to be huge for us in the playoffs. We’re moving the puck quickly and putting the puck in the back of the net.”