Trotz pleased with Isles’ preseason effort
New head coach’s message getting through during exhibition slate
Tougher, smarter and more attentive to detail.
All the little things Barry Trotz wants to see from his New York Islanders have been getting absorbed and enacted during this training camp and preseason slate.
The Islanders’ new head coach, fresh of capturing the first-ever Stanley Cup in the history of the Washington Capitals, has been adamant that his new charges adapt to a style that will help them end a two-year playoff drought here in Downtown Brooklyn.
And for the most part, the Isles are taking heed of their sage coach’s advice, displaying a solid all-round performance Wednesday night in their fourth consecutive exhibition win, a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime triumph over the archrival New York Rangers in front of 13,347 fans at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Trotz noted after Anthony Beauvillier’s goal 53 seconds into overtime helped New York improve to 5-2 in the preseason.
“Especially with a new team and new group; they really are sponges,” he added. “They’ve been fantastic. They’ve been listening and doing the right things.”
The Isles’ offseason overhaul, which saw them bring in Hall of Fame executive Lou Lamoriello and Trotz while waving bye-bye to former long-time general manager Garth Snow, head coach Doug Weight and free agent defector John Tavares, will likely be a work in progress under this new regime.
But adhering to Trotz’ message early and toughening up on the defensive end, where the Isles surrendered the most goals and shots in the league last season, are tantamount to the team’s success going forward.
And getting a little offense from the defense can’t hurt either.
Budding blueliner Ryan Pulock, who potted a career-high 10 goals last season, appears poised to flourish under Trotz, having scored in each of the last three games for New York, including a pair Wednesday against the Rangers.
“I think my game is where I want it to be,” Pulock said after scoring his third and fourth goals of the preseason.
“Obviously I’m going to continue to work to get better, but at this point in the preseason I feel really good and I’m looking forward to starting the season.”
As are the rest of the Isles, who spent most of this past summer dealing with Tavares’ move to Toronto and watching the front office get a complete makeover.
Pulock scored the game’s opening tally at 5:53 of the first period off assists from Josh Bailey and newly acquired veteran center Valtteri Filppula, one of several additions made by Lamoriello this summer.
The 23-year-old defenseman knotted the contest at 2-2 on the power play at 14:53 of the second stanza, using a high-powered one-timer to beat Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
“World-class player, world-class shot,” Isles goalie Robin Lehner said of Pulock after making 21 saves against the Blueshirts and furthering his case to usurp Thomas Greiss as New York’s Opening Night keeper.
“Seeing not necessarily how hard his shot is, but where he places them,” Lehner added. “Hard five-hole and right over the pad are some of the hardest shots to save in traffic. He knows where to put them.”
As does Trotz, who is still experimenting with front-line and defensive pairings as the Isles ready for their exhibition finale Friday night against Buffalo in Oshawa, Ontario Friday night.
After stressing the importance of playing well during the five-minute sudden death period, Trotz watched from the bench as Beauvillier, coming off his first 20-goal campaign, right-wristed the winner past Lundqvist for his third goal in two games.
“We talked about doing 3-on-3s and they executed them,” Trotz said. “They did a lot of good things tonight.”
Good enough to make the playoffs this year and seriously contend in the postseason?
That’s a question the Isles can’t even begin to answer until next Thursday’s regular-season opener in Carolina.
“We have a lot of new players on the hockey club and as the group gets smaller you build a little bit of rapport,” Trotz pointed out.
“That’s the start of the process. I’m a big believer in team-building,” he added. “Once the group is strong, you need to worry about the Xs and Os. We’ve definitely got some guys that are going in the right direction.”
Isle Have Another: Defenseman Thomas Hickey also scored for the Isles, knotting the contest at 3-3 just seconds after Mika Zibanejad gave the Blueshirts the lead early in the third period. The play was set up by reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal’s brilliance as he skated past and drew in a pair of defenders before dropping the puck to Bailey, who fed Hickey for the score. … The Isles’ home opener will be on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Barclays Center, and they do not play the first of their 20 scheduled home contests at the renovated Nassau Coliseum, a.k.a. NYCB Live, until Dec. 1, when they host Columbus.
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