Some New York Islanders fans wanted to see their team match up against head coach Barry Trotz’s former employers, the Washington Capitals, in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes had other plans.
After Wednesday’s thrilling overtime victory in Game 7 in Washington, Carolina heads to Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday for the opener of Round 2 against the well-rested Isles. The Canes’ upset of the defending Cup champions is only the latest surprise in this wild NHL postseason.
“[Carolina] has a lot of character… a lot of heart,” Trotz told reporters after his team’s four-game sweep over the Penguins in the first round. “We’re going to have our hands full.”
Statheads will note that Trotz’s team won three of four from the Hurricanes during the regular season. However, the two teams last met in early January, just before the Canes got hot and made a late-season push to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Read on for three keys for the Isles to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1993.
Rest and relaxation
As a result of their four-game triumph over Pittsburgh in Round 1, the Isles have had more than a week to recuperate while watching Carolina battle it out with the defending champs for seven games. The respite has given Cal Clutterbuck time to recover from a lower body injury. The winger, who skates on what Trotz has called the “identity” line alongside Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas, is expected to suit up for Game 1, and the Isles will need his leadership and physical presence.
Men in the mirror
Trotz has described the Hurricanes as a team that works hard and plays tough defense. That should sound familiar because the same can be said about the Islanders. Trotz’s team will need to remember its identity and play to its strengths, while finding a way to outwork Carolina.
Get ahead early
Carolina captain Justin Williams scored 23 goals in the regular season and has 1 goal and 3 assists in the playoffs so far, but they don’t call him “Mr. Game 7” for nothing. The three-time Cup winner holds the NHL record with 15 points (seven goals) in nine career Games 7s, and his teams are 8-1 in these contests. The Islanders would do well to get off to a fast start in this series and close the Canes out as quickly as possible to set up a matchup against the winner of the Boston Bruins-Columbus Blue Jackets series.
Islanders in 6 games