Under normal circumstances, a gameday in July would seem crazy, but these are far from normal times.
The puck will drop on the Islanders’ quest for a fifth Stanley Cup tonight when they face the New York Rangers in their first and only tune-up game before Saturday. Tonight’s game will give us a pretty good look at what the lineup will look like for Game 1 vs. the Florida Panthers and we will see both Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Gress in net tonight.
One thing to keep an eye out during the game is when it comes to the goalies and how they’re tracking the puck. Head coach Barry Trotz seems to have an idea of who he’s leaning towards to start against Florida, but he does want to see how each netminder tracks the puck tonight.
“Are they seeing and tracking the puck? It’s no different than a batter in baseball,” Trotz said. “Is he seeing the pitch? Is he picking up the ball early? That type of thing. You’re just looking for sharpness and for me, it’s which goaltender is tracking the puck really well.”
“It’ll feel good to coach a game. It’s been a few months, so you’re always excited about that first game to get it rolling.”
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) July 29, 2020
The Islanders will also utilize the extra forward and defenseman that the NHL is allowing teams to have for the exhibition game. Trotz called it an opportunity to ready the expanded lineup.
It’s likely that whichever extra forward is used they will likely get time on the line of Tom Kuhnhackl, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Derick Brassard. In the Islanders final practice on Long Island, Kuhnhackl was splitting time with Ross Johnston on that line.
Defensively, it will likely be Andy Greene or Noah Dobson that serve as the extra blueliner. The two are the likely candidates that will be called upon should another defenseman suffer an injury.
Projected Islanders Lines:
Anders Lee — Mat Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Tom Kuhnhackl/Extra Forward — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Derick Brassard
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy — Johnny Boychuk
Noah Dobson/Andy Greene
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers are keeping things a little close to the vest in the lead up to tonight’s game. Head coach David Quinn wouldn’t reveal which goaltenders would dress against the Islanders, telling reporters on Tuesday he hadn’t spoken with them yet. Similar to Trotz, Quinn has not announced who his starter will be for their opening game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Blueshirts will utilize the two extra players tonight, dressing forward Brendan Lemieux and defenseman Libor Hajek. Lemieux is suspended for the first two games against Carolina.
Projected Rangers Lines:
Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Pavel Buchnevich
Pavel Buchnevich — Ryan Strome — Jesper Fast
Phillip Di Giuseppe — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko
Brett Howden — Greg McKegg — Julien Gauthier
Brendan Smith — Jacob Trouba
Ryan Lindgren — Adam Fox
Marc Staal — Tony DeAngelo
Extras players: Forward Brendan Lemieux and defenseman Libor Hajek
When the season paused the Islanders had dropped seven straight games, which included a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Feb. 25. The Islanders last win came on Feb. 23 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-1 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Blueshirts hold the edge in the season series, with a 3-1-0 record against the Islanders. The New York Rangers were also a team headed in the right direction before the COVID-19 pandemic, winning seven of their last 12 games and picking up points in eight of those contests.
How to Tune In:
Islanders to Face Capitals in First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs
Barry Trotz once told the Washington Capitals that’d have to “go through the Island” to win another Stanley Cup Championship. That will be the case this year after the Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins on Sunday in their final Round Robin game.
It will be the first time the two clubs have seen each other since the Capitals defeated the Islanders in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Behind the bench back then for the Caps was none other than current Islanders bench boss Barry Trotz.
“I think it will be a hell of a series,” Trotz said. “Both teams are well equipped to go at each other.”
The series will mark the first time the Islanders and Capitals face one another since the two met in February. The Caps and Isles split the season series 2-2-0 and are 4-4-0 against the Capitals since Trotz took over coaching in 2018.
The Series will not be short of storylines when it begins next week.
The Capitals handed the Islanders one of their worst losses of the regular season this year on Jan. 18. The Islanders had taken a 4-1 lead into the third period at Nassau Coliseum, but the Capitals rallied in the final 20 minutes led by Alex Ovechkin to win the game 6-4.
Trotz is also quite familiar with the Capitals having coached there for four seasons before joining the Islanders just weeks after winning the Stanley Cup with Washington. That makes Trotz quite familiar with the Capitals roster.
“That group as a lot of pedigree. They got a lot of star power,” Trotz said. “They won a championship, so they’re well equipped in a lot of areas. The biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard. They’ll do the same because I know a lot about that group.”
The Capitals dropped their first two games of the Round Robin before defeating the Bruins on Sunday afternoon.
Washington had been one of the best teams during the regular season. They went 40-21-8 before the season was halted and had averaged 3.42 goals per game. The Capitals 237 goals were fourth-most in the league during the regular season.
“They’re both really solid teams,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said when asked about facing either the Capitals and Bruins. “Obviously they had a great season. They’re two teams that play the right way and works hard.”
Barry Trotz, Islanders Begin Preparing for First Round As They Wait for Opponent | NYHN+
And now they wait.
The Islanders will have some time on their hands before Game 1 of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs commences next week. At this moment, they don’t even know who their opponent will be.
New York ousted the Florida Panthers on Friday in a 5-1 Game 4 victory to take the series 3-1.
The Islanders could face the Washington Capitals or Boston Bruins, depending on the result of Sunday’s Round Robin contest between the two teams. But New York still has some time to kill before the First Round — whoever it may be against.
The team sat down for meetings on Saturday morning, but they didn’t work out on the ice. The Islanders will return to the ice on Sunday, but drawing up a concrete First Round battle plan won’t start until after Sunday.
Rob Simpson: Breaking Down Anders Lee’s Play in Game 4 | NYHN+
TORONTO — Finishing off a personal triple-feature of captains, we decided to handle a little Anders Lee Shift Diary after tracking Sidney Crosby and Sasha Barkov in earlier games for other branches of Hockey Now. The Isles top line has run a little hot and cold this series, with Lee being the coolest statistically (zero points, +2). Then again, he’s more of the “body” on the top line, with Matt Barzal and Jordan Eberle being the “talent”. That said, it didn’t stop Lee from cashing in with a 20-goal truncated regular season, following 34, 40, and 28 tallies the previous three years. The workhorse has six years left at $7-million per.
The Islanders showed up energetically to close out this series.
0:35-1:30: Fast-moving shift. On an Isles dump-in, he raced in on the forecheck and delivered a gratuitous hit on MacKenzie Weegar after he had moved the puck. Anders Lee raced back to the neutral zone for the regroup off the Florida clear. At it again on the forecheck, he tied up Anton Stralman, knocked a puck loose, and created a mild scoring opportunity.
A lengthy break. With his line coming up, Isles went on the PK. They killed off Ryan Pukock’s tripping penalty.