Trotz to get his ring as Capitals visit Islanders
NEW YORK -- Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals were last in the same building together June 7, when they experienced the cathartic joy of the Capitals' first Stanley Cup championship.
It didn't take long for joy to be replaced by the cold realities of business for Trotz and the Capitals, who couldn't agree on terms of a new contract before Trotz, who coached last season as a lame duck, announced he would leave the organization June 18.
Three days later, Trotz agreed to become the head coach of the New York Islanders. And on Monday night, 172 days after Washington clinched the Stanley Cup by beating the Vegas Golden Knights, Trotz will finally reunite with his former employers and players when the Islanders host the Capitals at Barclays Center.
Trotz's past and present teams are both entering the game with momentum. The Capitals extended their winning streak to five games Saturday with a 5-3 win over the host New York Rangers. The Islanders won for the second time in as many days Saturday, when they beat the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1.
Of course, Trotz knows the buzz surrounding Monday's game has little to do with the recent fortunes of the Islanders and Capitals. After all, it's not every day a head coach receives his Stanley Cup ring while opposing the team whom he steered to the title. (Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, who were the Capitals' assistant and goaltending coaches under Trotz last season and are the Islanders' associate and goaltending coaches this season, are also expected to receive their rings during Washington's visit.)
Trotz is the first coach to leave a Cup-winning team for another head coaching gig since Mike Keenan bolted the Rangers for the St. Louis Blues following the 1993-94 season.
The Blues and Rangers didn't face each other during the lockout-shortened 1995 season, during which teams only played conference foes, so Monday marks the first time in almost 40 seasons a Cup-winning coach will oppose his old team the year after winning the championship.
Scotty Bowman, who coached the Montreal Canadiens to four straight Stanley Cups from 1975-76 through 1978-79, departed following the last title to the Buffalo Sabres, who faced the Canadiens four times during the 1979-80 campaign.
"It'll be awkward a little bit," Trotz said following Saturday's win. "Just a little bit weird because there's so many good memories.
"They've got only a couple new guys, so pretty (much) that whole team is back. They've got a tremendous hockey team."
The Capitals (13-7-3) have shook off a Cup hangover to move back into first place in the Metropolitan Division, which they won under Trotz each of the last three seasons.
"We're starting to get that feeling again through our room," Capitals right winger Brett Connolly told the team's website following Saturday's win. "We're starting to get there, like we had towards the end of last year. That's what we're working towards. I think we feel it coming a little better."
But the Capitals are just three points ahead of the Islanders (12-8-2), who are tied for third place with the Rangers despite losing center John Tavares to free agency a little more than two weeks after Trotz arrived.
A pair of number one goaltenders are expected to oppose each other Monday night.
Braden Holtby, who sat in the second game of a back-to-back set Saturday, should start Monday for the first time since Friday, when he stopped 31 shots in the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Islanders are likely to stick with the hot Thomas Greiss, who won both ends of the post-Thanksgiving back-to-back set, including Saturday, when he recorded 26 saves against the Hurricanes.
Holtby is 14-4-3 in 21 career regular season games against the Islanders. He was also 3-3 against New York in the Capitals' seven-game win in the 2015 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Greiss is 2-1-1 in four games against Washington.
Updated November 26, 2018