For the Islanders, the Good Times Really Are Here Again
As veteran Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck said, “As cliché as it sounds, you always hear it always starts at the top. And it really is.
Mathew Barzal, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in the 2017-18 season and was the only Islander to make the league’s top 100 scorers last season, noticed the difference.
“The most important is the details and the professionalism, day in and day out,” he said. “Whether it’s having short hair and clean facial hair all through the regular season or details on the ice like changing hard, hitting the bench strong, training hard. Just being a pro, whether you’re going out for dinner on the road or coming to the plane, you have to be a pro 24/7, and they really put it to work.
This buttoned-up approach manifested itself on the ice. Lamoriello kept much of the core of the team intact and made some important deals on schedule, securing Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators last season and picking up Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils in 2021. Lamoriello also signed goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov. as a free agent in 2019, and Varlamov was joined this season by Ilya Sorokin, a 2014 draft pick who played in the Russian Continental Hockey League until he was 25.
Lamoriello and Trotz emphasize confidence, teamwork and defense. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has known Lamoriello from his days with the Devils, who won championships by stopping his opponents’ infractions.
The season before Lamoriello’s arrival, the Islanders were the worst defensive team in the league. But in the 2018-19 season they were the best, and this season they finished second behind the Vegas Golden Knights in goals against. Trotz and Lamoriello credit the players. The Islanders have no shortage of offensive stars, but their strength lies in taking down their opponents in waves and crushing more talented teams.
“I’ve probably said this to every team I’ve had: if you want to get somewhere fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with the group, ”Trotz said after the Islanders upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. “This group believes in the group, in the strength of the group. “
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