With the New York Islanders having dropped their last three games, head coach Barry Trotz wanted to use the team’s off-day before they faced the Philadelphia Flyers in back-to-back games to recalibrate their mindset.
The Islanders dropped a heartbreaker on Tuesday to the Washington Capitals and then suffered an ugly loss to them again on Thursday after squandering a 3-0 lead. So Friday’s practice took on a different tone and focused on getting the team back to a positive place.
“When things aren’t going good there’s nothing you can do other than come together as a group,” Trotz said ahead of Saturday’s game with Philadelphia. “You really need to lean on each other and find ways to have a little bit of fun. If it’s a grind, I think the teams playing the best when you can get a nice balance where you’re playing really hard and you’re embracing the grind, but you’re having a lot of fun with it. It’s just no different than going to work. If work becomes work then it’s not very passionate, and you want it to be a passion.”
The New York Islanders, like the 30 other NHL clubs, have a tough road to navigate this season. With only 56 games on the schedule, the year will move more like a sprint than a marathon. Only three points separate the Islanders from a playoff spot seven games into the year, but a win or two in Washington would have put them in a much different position.
The five-game road trip that the Islanders are in the middle of is a reminder of just how important each game is this season, as well as what a mental grind this year is. The shortened schedule means that the teams will need to be able to ride out the ups and downs of the season without getting stuck in the funk that can come with a tough stretch of games.
“Trotzy kind of got the message across that it just hasn’t been good enough from all us over the last three games or so,” said Matt Martin who appeared in his 700th NHL game on Saturday. “But at the same time, he said he wanted to get the joy back in our game. Having fun again and I think that’s important. It’s obviously a roller coaster ride throughout the season. Physically, emotionally lots of up and downs, and lots of adversity you have to go through.”
The New York Islanders had been outscored 11-5 in their three previous games leading up to Saturday and offense had been coming at a premium. So Trotz’s effort to get the Islanders back to having fun on the ice serves a deeper purpose.
“To me, if you can get the head right, then the feet and all the processing and all that stuff sort of comes together,” Trotz said. “When the heads a little bit off then everything is a little bit slower. You don’t trust as much and we have to get our trust back in our game. That’s where we’re trying to get to.”