Jack Capuano is looking ahead to the Panthers but took a moment to look back on the past weekend and some of the questioning of his and the Islanders’ integrity for resting so many regulars on the way to securing only one of four points in two games and assuring themselves of a first-round playoff date with Florida.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault noted that the Islanders “did what they had to do and we did what we thought we had to do.”
Capuano had a few observations on what the Rangers did on Saturday when their 3-2 win assured the Rangers of having to rely on the Islanders to get three points in their last two games to jump over their rivals.
“The only thing I can say is, watching his game on Saturday, I thought he did the right thing and I did the wrong thing,” Capuano told Newsday. “He benched [Derek] Stepan and [Rick] Nash with 13 minutes left in the second after [Eric] Staal got hurt. I thought that was the right thing to do.
“On the flip side, Johnny [Tavares] and his line, I put them out 17 minutes [against Buffalo on Saturday], power play, offensive-zone faceoffs and they scored to tie it and then I kept them going out until two minutes to go. I was the one that was wrong in that case.”
Capuano noted that the Rangers started Antti Raanta in goal on Saturday rather than Henrik Lundqvist and their ice-time leaders were two rookie defensemen, Dylan McIlrath (22:57) and Brady Skjei (22:04), and fourth-liner Tanner Glass and rookie call-up Marek Hrivik led their forwards in ice time.
As for Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Flyers, in which Capuano sat his entire first line and top defense pair, the Islanders coach didn’t care what anyone said. “Sunday doesn’t matter to me at all, we were sitting those guys no matter what,” Capuano said. “If anyone wants to look at Sunday, that’s the thing I get frustrated with. Nashville sat all their guys [Saturday], [Alex] Ovechkin sat in Washington, Philly sat a few guys. But there’s only two games [on Sunday], so the spotlight’s on us.”
And, perhaps with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Capuano wished he could have run his bench on Saturday, when the Isles rallied to earn a point against the Sabres, more like Vig neault did.
“I dressed our top guys Saturday, I could have pulled back like he did and I didn’t until 2-3 minutes left because we were gun-shy with all the injuries,” Capuano said. “Sunday, some guys were going to get minutes they needed to get some work in — [Cal] Clutterbuck, [Matt] Martin, [Nikolay] Kulemin. [Calvin] De Haan played 20, [Nick] Leddy played 20 the night before. I’m the one who should look in the mirror and say, ‘Did I do the right thing?’
“He’s got his opinion and I like AV, I respect him. He’s a good guy, a great coach who’s had a lot of success. Maybe I should have taken a page out of his book and played my guys less on Saturday.”