Home Sports Barry Trotz believes Islanders ‘close’ to flipping this series

Barry Trotz believes Islanders ‘close’ to flipping this series


This is no time for nattering nabobs of negativism.

Despite entering Friday night’s Game 3 against the Lightning down two games in this best-of-seven in Edmonton, the first lost in a blowout and the next decided in the final nine seconds, the Islanders and their pied piper of positive reinforcement behind the bench do not appear to be worried.

“I think the belief in our room is real good,” coach Barry Trotz said via Zoom on Thursday. “I just feel like, you know, this series is real close to flipping here.”

Maybe. Maybe not. The Islanders seemed reasonably pleased with the way they had played in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat, perhaps unduly so in light of the fact that: a) the club known for its poise and structure broke down a half-dozen different ways on Tampa Bay’s final foray into the offensive zone that culminated with Nikita Kucherov’s game-winner at 19:51 of the third period; and, b) the power play frittered away a five-minute major advantage in the first period and was inept on a mid-third period opportunity that included 38 seconds of five-on-three.

But the Islanders did limit the Lightning throughout the match and were able to turn the contest into a smaller ice battle with little open ice. The cause was certainly aided when Brayden Point left the game for good at 5:23 of the second period after Tampa Bay’s first-line center suffered an apparent lower-body injury, but that’s show-biz. There was no update provided by the Lightning as to Point’s projected availability for Game 3.

Barry Trotz
Barry TrotzGetty Images

“I think honestly we have a lot to take away from that last game,” said Anders Lee, who has been held off the board by Tampa Bay. “We’re not going to dwell on the loss, but you can look back on it and pick from it and build off it. I think we did a lot of good things but just came up short.“It was different from Game 1 [8-2], where you completely forget about it. Game 2, we can take things from it and build off of it.”

The Islanders took 24 attempts at five-on-five in Game 1 and 33 in Game 2. But only 14 of those attempts got through in Game 1, and only 18 in Game 2. Combined, Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy has faced only 27 shots at five-on-five through the opening pair of matches for the Lightning, the preponderance coming from the outside. He has not been called upon all that often to perform Vezina-like feats. He has faced 23 power play shots in 20:05 of time.

“I think we could shoot it a little more, honestly,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “Rebounds are a lot harder to break up than direct passes that can be anticipated. “Teams are going to be pretty stingy in front of their net regardless of who they are, so I think we can probably do a better job of throwing pucks on [net] and dealing with rebounds instead of trying to pass it into the net.”

Translation: The Islanders should stop trying to be like the Rangers.

The Islanders have not yet been able to establish a dominant ground game below the hash marks. The less time they possess the puck, the more time they have to contend with Tampa Bay’s weaponry that begins with the ability to clear the zone crisply. And they must keep their eyes on the prize. The Islanders can’t win four games on Friday so it would be counterproductive to try. One at a time starts now.

“One of the things we talked about real quickly, and I’ve talked about it before, is the journey to get to the [Stanley] Cup,” said Trotz, whose team has not practiced since moving to Edmonton. “When you get this far, there have already been some roadblocks and different things.

“You look back even to our last series, we were up two games [3-1] and then we have to go to Game 7 with Philly to eliminate them, so our focus is just on the next game. We can’t get those last two games back, but we can get the next game and we’ll just focus on that.”

When Trotz coached Washington to the 2018 Cup, the Capitals experienced deficits in each of their playoff series. They lost the first two games of the first round to Columbus at home before winning in six. They lost the opener of the next round to Pittsburgh before prevailing in six. They were down 3-2 in the conference finals to Tampa Bay before winning Games 6 and 7 on shutouts. And they dropped Game 1 of the Cup final to Vegas before taking the next four.

“It’s just being in the moment. The guys are,” the coach said. “You talk about character and resiliency, and all that, I mean, we’re into our fourth series — not our third series, our fourth — and the mental grind and the amount of effort they’ve had to put forward is tremendous. They’re not scared of the work, they’re not scared of the battle, they’re not scared of the challenge.

“We’ll leave it all on the line and if it’s not good enough, so be it, but we’re going to walk away from this series, no matter what, with our best effort.”


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