The Hurricanes may not have a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin for the Islanders to be worried about in their second-round playoff series, but they do have a guy whose nickname might be the coolest in all of sports: “Mr. Game 7.’’
Hurricanes captain Justin Williams got that nickname from his uncanny ability to produce in the biggest of moments in his 18-year NHL career. The 37-year-old has played in nine Game 7s, including the one the Hurricanes won Wednesday night, when they knocked out the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals in double overtime. Williams has an NHL-record 15 points in those Game 7s, including the one he earned for assisting on Brock McGinn’s game-winner on Wednesday.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz knows all about Williams, having coached him for two seasons with the Capitals, from 2015-17. Trotz has spoken glowingly about Williams this postseason. And Williams has just as much respect for Trotz. In Friday’s pregame media briefing at the Hurricanes’ Manhattan hotel, Williams characterized his relationship with Trotz as “very good.’’
“Certainly, as I was with the Capitals, certainly, for him, I was proud that they were able to win a championship last year,’’ Williams said of Trotz. “I mean, he worked years upon years to get where he wanted to go. And I’m sure winning a championship was awesome for him. He’s also a great person off the ice, too.’’
Williams said he knows what to expect from a Trotz-coached Islanders team.
“There’s no shortcuts with Barry,’’ he said. “He’s got the system, and he and his coaches do a phenomenal job setting it up. They’ll obviously be prepared – they were probably watching both teams, doing research on both teams. They’re prepared, they’re smart. They don’t give you anything for free.’’
As for his current team, Williams was asked how hard it will be for the Hurricanes to get back up to play in Game 1 less than 48 hours after the Game 7 thrilling win over the Capitals.
“It’ll be easy,’’ Williams said. “I’d rather be playing hockey than doing exit interviews. It’s easy to get up for it. I haven’t been on the ice since Brock scored, but I have good memories of being out there. It’ll be fine.’’