Teams that go on long runs in the NHL playoffs typically rely on contributions across a deep roster for their success.
So it was no surprise to hear Islanders coach Barry Trotz name-check a majority of his players — even some reserves who have yet to dress in the postseason — after Thursday’s night’s 4-0 win over the Capitals in Game 5 clinched the first-round series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
“It was a team effort,” Trotz said. “You look back at any game, there wasn’t anybody where you could say this line wasn’t very good or that line wasn’t very good.”
The Islanders, who did not practice on Friday, advanced to the second round for a second straight season under Trotz. Last year, they swept the Penguins in the first round but then were swept by the Hurricanes.
The Islanders will face the Flyers in the second round. Philadelphia eliminated Montreal with a 3-2 victory in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.
The Islanders’ roster depth was particularly relevant Thursday as Trotz finally altered his personnel after dressing the same lineup for a season-high five straight games.
Gritty right wing Cal Clutterbuck was not physically fit to play after taking a hard hit from Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas in Game 4. So Trotz moved agitator Leo Komarov from Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line to Clutterbuck’s spot on Casey Cizikas’ fourth line.
Then, still seeking more physicality in his lineup, he sat Derick Brassard for the first time in this postseason and inserted Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle as Pageau’s wings.
“Those guys were hungry,” Cizikas said of Johnston, who made his NHL playoff debut, and Dal Colle, who participated in a playoff game for the first time this season and second time in his career. “You want to be in the game, you want to be in the playoffs. When you get the opportunity, you’re going to give it everything you have.”
Johnston logged 10:02 with a shot and four hits and Dal Colle had three hits in 9:22. Both were strong on the puck and in battles along the walls. Johnston drew a second-period high stick from Richard Panik.
“Both those guys coming in I thought did an excellent job,” Trotz said. “They gave us some live legs. They gave us a different look.”
The Islanders’ defensive depth was tested in Game 1 of their four-game win over the Panthers in the best-of-five qualifying series. Lineup stalwart Johnny Boychuk — “a heart-and-soul type of guy,” Trotz said — suffered a head injury on a high hit from defenseman Mike Matheson.
Former Devils captain Andy Greene, who was acquired on Feb. 16 for immediate help when top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech was thought lost for the season because of an Achilles tendon injury, stepped in seamlessly for the injured Boychuk and has yet to relinquish his lineup spot.
Trotz’s ability to rely on his depth is a good sign for the Islanders because the NHL playoffs usually wind up as a battle of attrition.
“People don’t even recognize how tough it is to make the playoffs, then to get through that first round is extremely tough,” Trotz said. “We’ve sort of done two of them already in this new format. It speaks a lot about our group. They have good focus. They understand how they have to play and how disciplined and how committed you have to be to have any success.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders’ win moved Lou Lamoriello into a tie with former Islanders executive Bill Torrey for the second-most playoff series wins for NHL general managers at 28. Lamoriello, who also had stints with the Devils and Maple Leafs, and Torrey, who also had stints with the long-defunct California Golden Seals and the Panthers, trail former Oilers and Rangers GM Glen Sather, who has 41 series wins.