Barry Trotz won’t have to talk, ad infinitum, about the Capitals after all.
Instead, his Islanders will face the Hurricanes in the second round of the playoffs after the Hurricanes eliminated Trotz’s former team by rallying for a 4-3 double overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 7 on Wednesday night at Washington.
Game 1 will be at Barclays Center on Friday night and Game 2 will be Sunday before the series shifts to Carolina for Game 3 next Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday, May 3.
Game 5, if necessary, would be played May 5 at Barclays.
Games 6 and 7 will be played back-to-back on May 7-8.
At this point, any hockey will be fine for the Islanders, who were off on Wednesday and will resume practice on Thursday at East Meadow. They completed their four-game sweep of the Penguins on April 16 and their 10-day playoff layoff will tie the mark for the third longest in NHL history.
The Islanders will be facing the Hurricanes for the first time in the postseason. They won three of the four regular-season games between the two with goalie Thomas Greiss holding the Hurricanes to one goal apiece in each of the victories.
But their last game was Jan. 8, when the Hurricanes won, 4-3, at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. And the Hurricanes certainly showed their mettle by twice coming back from two-goal deficits on Wednesday night.
“Carolina likes to play forecheck and they like to get some speed in,” Islanders center Mathew Barzal said. “They’ll crash in on the forecheck.”
The Hurricanes’ Game 7 win was the first time in their series with the Capitals that the road team won.
The Islanders will have home-ice advantage for the second straight series after not having it since 1988.
“I think when things are tight, that home-ice advantage is crucial,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “I think you look at any series and that home team has that slight advantage and, sometimes, that can be the difference maker.
“At the same time, we’ve been a team all year where our home record and our away record have been very similar,” Pulock added. “We just kind of play the same way. It doesn’t really matter. Maybe that’s an advantage in some of those series but, for us, just play the same game no matter where we’re playing.”
The Islanders went 24-13-4 at home this season – 12-6-2 at Barclays Center and 12-7-2 at the Coliseum – and 24-14-3 on the road.
Home teams are able to make the last line change during stoppages, allowing coaches to create the matchups they most want. For instance, in the Penguins’ series, Trotz tried to get his defense pair of Adam Pelech and Pulock and his line of Casey Cizikas between Matt Martin and Clutterbuck on the ice against Sidney Crosby’s line.
But the Islanders, for the most part, stifled Crosby’s line even at Pittsburgh when Trotz was not able to dictate the matchups.
In that sense, the Islanders have an advantage because Trotz is comfortable using any of his lines or defensive pairings in most situations.
“I think it’s just a matter of who’s playing better that night,” defenseman Thomas Hickey said. “There’s certainly an advantage to having last change and getting the matchups you want. We certainly do matchups but we’re really deep, too, and everyone plays the same style. If we don’t get the matchup, just take care of business. I think our depth sort of takes away those worries a little bit.
“You want home ice,” Hickey added. “You want to play in front of your fans. But, home or the road, it doesn’t matter for us, as our record indicates.”