Barry Trotz’s prophecy of his former team, the Capitals, having to go through his current one, the Islanders, if they want to win another Stanley Cup, is coming true a season later.
The Capitals locked up the third seed and a first-round, best-of-seven matchup with the sixth-seeded Islanders with a 2-1 win over the Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
“That group has a lot of pedigree,” said Trotz, who led the Capitals to their first Cup in 2018 before a contract impasse led him to joining the Islanders two weeks later. “They’ve got a lot of star power and they’ve won a championship. They’re well-equipped in a lot of areas. So, the biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard and they’ll do the same because I know a lot about that team.”
Game 1 of the Islanders-Capitals series is Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Toronto.
The Islanders eliminated the Panthers from their best-of-five qualifying series with a 5-1 win in Friday’s Game 4.
“It’s the Washington Capitals vs. the New York Islanders not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden, who was elevated from associate coach to succeed Trotz. “It’s a team effort.”
“You’ve spent some time with a lot of their players,” Trotz said. “It just gives me a little insight on some of their tendencies, that’s all.”
Trotz, along with Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn, collected their Stanley Cup rings for the Capitals’ victory before a 4-1 loss to Washington at Barclays Center on Nov. 26, 2018.
Trotz was also allowed into the visitor’s dressing room to address his former team prior to that game.
Trotz told the Capitals, “You can do it again. You’ll have to go through the [expletive] Island, OK?” Trotz also added he was trying to accomplish on Long Island the same thing he did in Washington to create the same memories, “I always will [have] with you guys.”
“It was a special day,” Trotz said on Sunday. “I did something special with my coaching staff and that group of players. It was emotional and heartfelt. It’ll be a great challenge because I know the people over there.”
And it was a matchup that came within a Game 7 of happening last season.
The Islanders swept the Penguins in the first round, but the visiting Hurricanes dethroned the Capitals with a 4-3, double-overtime win in Game 7 of their first-round series. The Hurricanes then swept the Islanders.
Naturally, the Islanders have higher expectations this season.
“I think every player always looks to get into the playoffs and you want to step up,” said Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who tied for the team lead with three goals in the four games against the Panthers. “I think we’re all competitive. You want to leave it on the ice. We did a great job of that in the first qualifier.”
The Islanders and Capitals split their four-game regular-season series, with the road team winning each game.
The Capitals spoiled the Islanders’ season-opener with a 2-1 win at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 4 and Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick in a 6-4 win at the Coliseum on Jan. 18. But Casey Cizikas scored twice in a 4-3 win at Washington on Dec. 31 and Anthony Beauvillier scored twice in a 5-3 road win over the Capitals on Feb. 10.
In fact, the Islanders have split the eight regular-season games with the Capitals since Trotz switched sides, winning all four in Washington.
That’s no longer a factor will all games being played in Toronto.
“It’ll be interesting,” Capitals right wing Tom Wilson said. “We know them well, some personnel and the coaching staff that we’re familiar with. Obviously, a good rivalry.”
Notes & quotes: Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk returned to practice on Sunday for the first time since exiting Game 1 against the Panthers after taking an illegal check to the head from Mike Matheson. “We had everybody today,” Trotz said. “We’re good to go…” Reirden said he was “hopeful” John Carlson will be available for Game 1 against the Islanders. The Capitals top defenseman has not played since exiting their exhibition game against the Hurricanes on July 29.
The Islanders and Capitals, who will meet in the first round of the NHL Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, split four regular-season games.
Here’s how they stacked up statistically in the regular season:
Record: Capitals 41-20-8, 90 points (first in Metropolitan Division; Islanders 35-23-10, 80 points (fifth in Metropolitan Division)
Leading scorers: Capitals – D John Carlson (15 goals, 60 assists), LW Alex Ovechkin (48 goals, 19 assists), C Nicklas Backstrom (12 goals, 42 assists); Islanders – C Mathew Barzal (19 goals, 41 assists), C Brock Nelson (26 goals, 28 assists), LW Anders Lee (20 goals, 23 assists), RW Josh Bailey (14 goals, 29 assists)
Goalies: Capitals – Braden Holtby 25-14-6, 3.11 goals-against average, .897 save percentage, Vitek Vanecek 0-0-0, 0.00, .000; Islanders – Semyon Varlamov 19-14-6, 2.62, .914, Thomas Greiss 16-9-4, 2.74, .913
Power play: Capitals 42-for-216 (19.4%), 17th in NHL; Islanders 26-for-168 (17.3%), 24th in NHL
Penalty kill: Capitals 199-for-242 (82.6%), sixth in the NHL; Islanders 142-for-176 (80.7%), 15th in the NHL
Postseason so far: Capitals 1-1-1 in round-robin for seeding; Islanders defeated Panthers, 3-1, in best-of-five qualifier