Throughout the grueling grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has often preached to his club the importance of appreciating the moments that come with competing for one of sports’ holy grails.
For a fan base that has been devoid of much of those moments or joys for the past three decades before Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello’s arrival, that isn’t hard to do. Obviously, it’s a completely different story for a team that’s in the heat of battle and has often implored that their mindset is cemented in the cliched “one game a time” or “thinking about only the next shift” realm.
But Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum was exactly one of those moments as the Islanders closed out the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the second round to win the Eastern Division and make the Stanley Cup semifinals for the second-straight year.
This time, it was all the more special because they managed to do so in front of their home fans compared to last year’s run in the Toronto bubble.
“We recognized this was a special moment for this building,” Trotz said. “Guys understood the magnitude of this game and the importance of this game. This is a group that’s very easy [to coach]— you don’t have to say many things… they’re a really solid veteran group and they understand the moments.”
A three-goal second period paved the way for a 6-2 beatdown of the Bruins with every Islanders goal building upon the already deafening decibel levels of the 12,000 plus supporters filling the Coliseum — a beloved building in its final act before the team moves to UBS Arena in Elmont later this year.
“This was a moment for them and the crowd,” Trotz said. “What a great atmosphere. It was deafening. I couldn’t hear anything out there I had some white noise for a while. It was fantastic.”
Their upset of the Bruins has only solidified what is becoming an inconvenient truth for a lot of NHL fans and pundits outside of New York: The Islanders are a legitimate — and it’s an almost unthinkable notion considering this team was wallowing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference just four years ago.
But as has been discussed ad nauseam with this franchise, that’s what good coaching and a structured front office can do for a franchise — and some of its elder statesmen are reaping the benefits of playing on the most successful version of the Islanders since their dynasty years from 1980-1983.
“We have a good group of guys that have been here a long time,” veteran center Brock Nelson, who scored two goals in Wednesday night’s clincher, said. “They’ve grown up here, grown up together. It’s a special group, a special place with a lot of history dating back to the 80s. Not just the players, but the community… it adds to the excitement.”
That excitement will only grow as the Islanders once again are just four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.
“When your career is done, you’re going to remember those special moments — when you win a series, maybe even a Stanley Cup… we can make this a special moment,” Trotz said. “There’s going to be four teams left and all the other ones, the 27 other teams, they’re wishing they had this opportunity that we had. We’re going to enjoy the moment and then we’re going to get back to work.”