The unique postseason bubble makes for some new experiences, but there isn’t a whole lot that the men behind the benches for the Islanders-Flyers series haven’t already seen.
Barry Trotz and Alain Vigneault will square off once again when their teams’ second-round playoff series begins Monday night in Toronto, pitting the two most experienced head coaches left in the postseason against each other.
“For me, I’ve coached against Barry quite a few times in the playoffs,” Vigneault, the former Rangers coach, said Sunday on a Zoom call. “It’s going to be a greasy series.”
Vigneault has gotten the best of Trotz in their prior two playoff meetings — his Canucks beat Trotz’s Predators in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals and his Rangers beat Trotz’s Capitals in a memorable seven-game series in 2015.
Much as Trotz has done since he arrived on Long Island, Vigneault, who was fired by the Rangers in 2018, has made an instant impact on the Flyers since getting the job last summer and has them playing well at the right time.
“Both coaches put a lot of emphasis on the winning areas of playoff hockey,” said Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen, who won the Stanley Cup with Trotz and the Capitals in 2018.
Trotz and Capitals coach Todd Reirden shared just a quick handshake after the Islanders completed their dismantling of Washington in the playoffs Thursday.
The Islanders coach had a similarly unemotional response Sunday when asked about Reirden — who replaced him in Washington in 2018 — getting fired.
“It’s part of what you sign up [for in] coaching,” Trotz said. “That’s what you accept when you become a head coach in the National Hockey League. Just wish him well.”
It was an uncharacteristically short answer by Trotz, who resigned soon after winning the Cup in 2018, unable to work out a new contract with management. The Capitals hired Reirden, who had spent four years on Trotz’s staff.
Ross Johnston made his playoff debut Thursday, stepping into the lineup for the injured Cal Clutterbuck and contributing a solid game. With the expanded rosters for the postseason bubble, Johnston was one of 10 Islanders scratches who were trying to stay sharp until their number was called.
“I think we have a good group of guys that kind of push each other,” Johnston said. “Not being able to be in the lineup each night is obviously difficult, but with the group of guys we have … coming to the rink every day, we’re trying to push each other in a way where you’re physically ready if the opportunity does present itself.”
Trotz said everyone was on the ice Sunday for the Islanders’ practice, but declined to divulge the status of Clutterbuck or any potential lineup changes.
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