Barry Trotz walked into the Washington Capitals locker room at Barclays Center on November 26th, 2018 for what was a very emotional moment for him. The season before, Trotz led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup championship but did not get a new contract with the team and that led to his hiring as Head Coach of the Islanders. Trotz, as well as his assistants that came over to the Islanders, received their Stanley Cup rings and also had a chance to address their former club.
During his speech, Trotz delivered a memorable line to the Capitals implying that they could hoist the Stanley Cup again…with a bit of a caveat.
“You can do it again too,” Trotz told the Capitals. “You’ll have to go through the f***ing Island, OK.”
It even inspired Long Island based graphic artist Joe Maracic to create a special t-shirt to commemorate the phrase…
(courtesy of Joe Maracic)
Well now Trotz will lead his current team against his former team when the Islanders meet the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals starting with game one on Wednesday in Toronto at 3pm.
A post-season meeting, especially after the moment he shared with his former team last year, had to be inevitable right?
“I never really thought about it,” said Trotz. “That was a special day. I did something special with my coaching staff and that group of players and it was emotional and heartfelt. It will be a great challenge because I know the people over there.”
Game 1: Wednesday August 20th…Islanders at Capitals…3pm
Game 2: Friday August 14th…Islanders at Capitals…8pm
Game 3: Sunday August 16th…Capitals at Islanders…Noon
Game 4: Tuesday August 18th…Capitals at Islanders…8pm
Game 5: Thursday August 20th…Islanders at Capitals…TBD
Game 6: Saturday August 22nd…Capitals at Islanders…TBD
Game 7: Sunday August 23rd…Islanders at Capitals…TBD
The latest chapter of the Islanders/Capitals playoff rivalry was confirmed on Sunday when Washington finished their round robin schedule with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins. The Islanders punched their ticket to the traditional Stanley Cup playoff field of 16 by dispatching of the Florida Panthers 3 games to 1 in the qualifying round.
“I think it will be a hell of a series,” said Trotz. “Both teams are well equipped to go at each other. That group has a lot of pedigree. They have a lot of star power. The biggest challenge is to play them even and play they hard.”
After struggling at times with the Panthers’ power play in the qualifying round, the Capitals present another challenge for the Islanders penalty killing unit with offensive stars like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie up front along with the expected return of high scoring defenseman John Carlson from and injury he suffered during the exhibition game against Carolina on July 29th.
Trotz and his staff are well aware of the task that lies ahead for the Islanders but he’ll use past experiences and strong preparation to have his team ready for puck drop on Wednesday.
“I spent some time with a lot of the (Capitals) players,” said Trotz. “It just gives me a little insight on some of their tendencies. You look at their power play and their special teams are top notch. “They’ve got a lot of weapons so we’ll focus on a lot of those tendencies and see if can nullify them.”
This will be the eighth playoff meeting between the Islanders and Capitals with the Islanders having won five of the previous seven. The last meeting was in 2015 when the Islanders lost in seven games to Trotz and the Capitals. There have certainly been some memorable moments between these two teams in the playoffs including the Easter Epic in 1987 and the Dale Hunter hit on Pierre Turgeon in 1993, but this year’s chapter certainly has its own juicy storyline.
Remember the end of Rocky III when Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa are about to have their “secret” third fight after Creed trained Rocky for his rematch with Clubber Lang?
“I’m still young enough to whip your butt stallion,” said Creed.
“Oh yeah,” said Balboa. “How are you going to do that? You taught me everything you know.”
“Almost everything,” replied Creed. “You gotta remember now…you fight great but I’m a great fighter.”
The Capitals certainly learned a lot from Barry Trotz on their way to a Stanley Cup in 2018, but did he teach them everything he knows? Maybe, just maybe, he has saved a little extra knowledge for the Islanders.