Islanders draw Capitals as Barry Trotz sees ‘great challenge’

Barry Trotz helped the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history just three seasons ago. Now, he’ll have to get through his former team to have any chance of securing the Islanders’ fifth.

With a 2-1 win over the Bruins on Sunday afternoon, the Capitals secured the third seed in the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs and will take on the sixth-seeded Islanders in the first round beginning next week.

“It’ll be a great challenge, because I know the people over there,” Trotz said on a Zoom call following the Islanders’ practice Sunday.

And does he know them well. There are 12 current Capitals players who were on the team that Trotz coached to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals against the Golden Knights, a series Washington won in five games.

However, Trotz resigned less than two weeks after the championship parade because he and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan couldn’t agree on a contract extension. Walking away made Trotz one of four NHL coaches in the past 40 years to not return to their team after winning the Cup.

“I think it’ll be a hell of a series,” said Trotz, who coached in Washington for four seasons before joining the Islanders in June 2018. “Both teams are well equipped to go at each other.”

Trotz acknowledged just how familiar he is with the Capitals’ arsenal, adding that being their former coach gives him “a little insight into some of their tendencies.” He mentioned that he plans to prepare his team for the Capitals’ power play and “top notch” special teams game.

“That group has a lot of pedigree, they have a lot of star power and they’ve won championships,” he said. “They’re well equipped in a lot of areas.”

Washington finished second in the Metropolitan division in Trotz’s first season with the club in 2014-15 before taking first in each of the three seasons after that. He compiled a regular season record of 205-89-34 and, along with the Cup, collected two Presidents’ Trophies and was the 2016 Jack Adams Award winner — given to the coach who contributes the most to his team’s success.

But Trotz noted that there are some new faces on the 2020 Capitals, including veteran Ilya Kovalchuk, who the Islanders were said to be interested in heading into this year’s trade deadline.

The Islanders went 2-2 against the Capitals during the 2019-20 regular season, with both teams scoring 14 total goals on one another. The Capitals finished on top of the Metro this year with 90 points, just one point shy of the Flyers, who defeated Washington 3-1 this past Thursday en route to going undefeated in round-robin play.

Trotz recalled his emotional first time back at Capital One Arena last year and the touching tribute that was played for him and his two assistants, Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, who followed Trotz to Long Island.

But there was no noticeable soft spot in Trotz while he discussed his former team, it sounded more like determination.

“The biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard,” Trotz said. “And they’ll do the same because I know a lot about that group.”

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