There should be no surprise over the physicality of Game 1 between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. It should come as no surprise either that it’s only going to ramp up from here on out.
The Capitals don’t seem like they’re going to be letting go of their anger over Anders Lee’s first-period hit on Nicklas Backstrom in Game 1. The Islanders spent part of Thursday trying to convey that they’re focused on just playing their game.
But they certainly sounded like they were ready for a dog fight if need be.
“Both teams have a lot of will and determination, and ability to be physical,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “I think we’re both going to try and wear each other down. Good. I love it, so Let’s go.”
Wednesday’s Game 1 saw the Islanders record 36 hits on the Capitals. The most New York had in its Qualifying Round series with Florida was 31 and they went through the four-game set without a single fight.
The rise in intensity comes with the territory of playing a divisional rival in the postseason. The Caps and Islanders have always produced memorable bouts in the regular season and their 2015 First Round matchup had a similar physical tone to it.
In fact, that series also featured a questionable hit that injured a player. However, that time it was Tom Wilson leveling Lubomir Visnovsky behind the net. Visnovsky did not return the rest of the series.
if this doesn’t get you hype for tomorrow, we don’t know what will. pic.twitter.com/KPsSIXcAAF
— x-new york islanders (@NYIslanders) August 14, 2020
“I think it started in that 2015 series. That still might be the most physical series I’ve been a part of,” Clutterbuck said about the rivalry between the Islanders and Capitals. “I think that was kind of the spark that ignited the flame. Obviously we’ve been able to have success, both teams, since.
“When you have two good teams that are deep and physical, and talented playing each other as many times as we have over the last five, six years that’s what you get. It’s a good rivalry.”
It helps that some of the key faces on both sides have remained the same. The New York Islanders have nine players that were on the roster during the 2015 series, while the Washington Capitals have six.
“A lot of the usual suspects are still involved,” Clutterbuck said.
The trick for the Islanders will be trying to find a balance between the physicality that Game 2 will likely have and remain within the system that has made them so successful.
New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz is confident his team will be able to do that.
“We’re just going to stay the course,” Trotz said. “Whatever happens, we’re well equipped if they want to play physical we’ll play physical. It’s not a problem. We’re just going to try and play our game. We know one way to play and we have to play it.”