The Islanders are closer to the Stanley Cup than they have been in the past 27 years.
It may not be under usual circumstances, but there is no debating that this group is the sturdiest Islanders team to come through the playoffs in nearly three decades. Head coach Barry Trotz said he hasn’t thought about how much he’s been able to accomplish in just his second year with the team, but the 2018 Stanley Cup-winning coach indicated that he is just getting started.
“When I came here I said this to the whole group: I had a great experience in Washington, I was able to go to the top of the mountain there in this league and I really want to share that with this group,” Trotz said on a Zoom call Sunday before Game 4 against the Flyers. “The journey is going to have different paths and unusual paths, and it may take some time, but it’s part of the process.
“We want to be an organization that can vie to be a playoff team every year and vie to be a contender every year. That’s part of the building blocks.”
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last year, the Islanders went on to get swept in four games by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round to cap off Trotz’s first year with the club.
This postseason, The Islanders have turned a lot of heads as they’ve garnered a 9-3 record since arriving in the Toronto bubble.
But the similarities between the 1993 Islanders team, which fell short in the Prince of Wales Conference Finals in five games to the Montreal Canadiens, begs the question of how far this 2020 Islanders club could go.
This is the first postseason since 1993 that three Islanders players have registered five or more goals, with Anthony Beauvillier (seven), Anders Lee (six) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (six) resembling that of Ray Ferraro (13), Benoit Hogue (six), Steve Thomas (nine) and Pierre Turgeon (six).
The 2020 season has likely thrown this Islanders team more curveballs than anything that 1993 group saw, but to Trotz, that’s what makes this run all the more impressive.
“This is such an unusual playoff where you don’t have to go through the grind of 82 games and a lot of teams head into the playoffs, the guys are banged up, worn out, emotionally drained just to get there that it can effect who’s going to be the Stanley Cup champion,” he said. “This is about as close to fresh teams, everybody healthy for the most part, going at it and the competition is tremendous. You’re seeing the parity in the league and the parity is because everybody was healthy, everybody came back at the same point. Hopefully we can sustain this and keep playing well.”
There is still a long way for the Islanders to go until the Stanley Cup is realistically in sight, but they believe there’s another level in their game they may be able to tap into. To Trotz, it’ll be a test of how the Islanders handle the big moments ahead. The moments the last Islanders team to come this far couldn’t rise to.
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