Hockey fans punching the air at the New York Islanders’ success in recent years always run to the same excuse: “They’re boring.”
They play defensive hockey, they don’t score many goals more often than not, and they’re organized.
That’s everything neutral hockey fans — or supporters of the teams the Islanders beat — hate.
But at the end of the day, it’s successful. And success is something that’s been rare around the Islanders’ parts over the last 35 years.
Tuesday night (8 p.m. puck drop, MSG+) provides an opportunity for the Islanders to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for a second-straight year as they hold a 3-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals.
Leading up to a night where they will receive their very best from a desperate Capitals team, the message remains the same as it did on the first day of the 2018-19 season — when the Islanders were expected to be bottom-dwellers in the NHL.
Keep to the structure and live by the layered defense that has stifled opponents from Washington D.C. to Vancouver.
Hopefully, non-Islanders fans can stay awake for such ideals.
“Just do your job and do it well,” Trotz said ahead of Game 4. “If you do that, then you have to go through more than one person. There are no areas of the ice that are free.”
The Capitals have been frustrated by the Islanders over the past three games, scoring just two even-strength goals during the series. Had it not been for their powerful power play and their effective penalty kill — which has kept a sputtering Islanders attack easily at bay — this series could look even worse on the stat sheet than it currently does.
That’s either here nor there for Trotz, who admitted there isn’t a lot of the Islanders’ game that needs to be changed to close out this series.
“The No. 1 thing is to get to our identity quick, get to our game quick, have a good start,” he said. “I just don’t want us to be loose. We understand what’s at stake, we understand our opponent.”
Veteran defenseman Andy Greene, who not only stepped in valiantly for the injured Johnny Boychuk but kept the job starting on the right side of Nick Leddy after his recovery, amplified Trotz’s message.
“It’s about our game, how we play, and you go from there. No change from what we do, just fix a few areas and go from there,” he said. “We’re going to get their best game tonight. We’ll have to be able to match it and be a determined group.”
“It is always the toughest game and we have to make sure we’re ready right from the start.”