Photo: NBC Sports Washington
Former Washington Capitals and current New York Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz spoke about the Capitals’ second-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins last season after Trotz and the Capitals failed to get past them the previous two seasons following a Presidents Trophy title each time.
Trotz will face the Penguins for the first time since he guided the Capitals past the Penguins to end their bid for a three-peat, when Washington eliminated Pittsburgh in Game 6 in the second round series on May 7, on Tuesday night with the Islanders.
“When you play them 100 times like we did, you finally figure it out,” Trotz said after the Islanders’ morning skate at PPG Paints Arena this morning. “The odds were going in our favor.”
“The history between Washington and Pittsburgh, it’s well-documented,” Trotz said. “There’s real pressure. For Washington, there’s real pressure in that building. It’s hard to understand it until you live it. Even media, you don’t feel it. It’s a real thing there.”
“We broke through it. It says a lot about the group last year that had to endure all the pain. To have some of that glory was well-worth the investment over the years. Once you go through it, I think it becomes easier. It’s hard, but I think it becomes easier because you understand what that’s like.”
Trotz also touched on Islanders’ forward Tom Kuhnackl, who hit the post in overtime in Game 6 a few minutes before Capitals’ center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a breakaway to eliminate the Penguins. Kuhnackl was a restricted free agent in the offseason but was not given a qualifying offer by the Penguins. A few days later, he signed with the Islanders.
Trotz said he keeps reminding Kuhnackl of that moment.
“I said, ‘You were that close.’” Trotz said. “But you can talk to every coach who has won a Cup. There’s that moment where, if that goes in, one team may be going home. You get that save, you get that post, you go back the other way and score.”
On Trotz’s comments about his shot off the post in overtime, Kuhnackl responded “I think we have that conversation every week. I’m sure he’s going to continue talking about it for the rest of the season.”
The Capitals will face their former head coach and his team for the first time on Monday, November 26. Trotz returns to Capital One Arena for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with the Capitals on Friday, January 18, which will almost certainly be an emotional night for Trotz and the Capitals fanbase.
Trotz, as well as his assistant Lane Lambert, who was Washington’s assistant coach during Trotz’s tenure in Washington and followed him to New York, have yet to receive their Stanley Cup rings. They will most likely get them when the Capitals visit the Islanders in about a month.
By Harrison Brown