Five months after steering the Washington Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship, Barry Trotz — now the head coach of the Islanders — received his Stanley Cup ring while his team visited the nation’s capital in November of 2018.
In the locker room with his former team, as he received his silverware, Trotz was grateful for the memories, but with it, he carried a warning.
“You can do it again, too,” he admitted. “You’ll have to go through the f—ing Island, okay? But you guys can do it again.”
Well, here we go.
The Capitals’ 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon clinched their spot as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern where they’ll meet the No. 6 Islanders — fresh off a four-game qualifying victory over the Florida Panthers — in the conference quarterfinals.
“I think it’ll be a hell of series,” Trotz said. “Both teams are well equipped to go at each other.”
But he’s already downplaying that talk with his old team from nearly two years ago.
“I never really thought about it,” Trotz said as he’s helped develop the Islanders from dysfunction to contention. “You hope going into what we were trying to do [two years ago] was to make the playoffs and hopefully meet a team like the Caps. That’s where that was at.”
“It was a special day, I did something special with my coaching staff and that group of players and it was emotional and heartfelt if you will. It’ll be a great challenge because I know the people over there.”
The Islanders and Capitals are familiar playoff foes. Under Trotz, Washington defeated the Islanders in a heated first-round series of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven games.
While he spent four years with the Capitals, Trotz isn’t doing much speculating based on his intimate knowledge of the organization.
“I’m not going to comment on them. That’s a better question for [Capitals head coach Todd Reirden] on how he thinks his team is playing,” Trotz said. “That group has a lot of pedigree, a lot of star power, and they’ve won championships.”
The Capitals were the Metropolitan Division’s top seed before play stopped due to COVID-19 in March, but a 1-2 showing in the round-robin tournament saw them drop in the standings to play the Islanders. New York split four regular-season meetings with the Capitals with the road team winning each game.
As his major focus was against the Panthers during the qualifying series, Trotz is already wary of the Capitals’ dangerous power play, headlined by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
“The biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard and they’ll do the same because I know a lot about that group,” Trotz said. “You look at their power play and their special teams and they’re top-notch and they have a lot of weapons. We’ll focus on a lot of their tendencies and see if we can nullify them.”