In the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are many intriguing storylines throughout the eight series being played. There is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s quest for revenge after being humiliated by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round last year as the President’s Trophy winner, and there is the Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltender, Robin Lehner, facing the team that dealt him at this year’s trade deadline in the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, one major storyline that is particularly juicy is the New York Islanders’ coach Barry Trotz facing his former team in the Washington Capitals, the team he coached to their first-ever championship back in 2018.
The Islanders are created in the image of Trotz’s coaching identity, strong defense, heavy blocking and opportunistic offense. They allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the regular season and only allowed seven goals in their four-game qualifier series win over the high-flying Florida Panthers.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been vital toward this defensive machine. He was fifth in all the NHL in save percentage (SV%) at .932; the same SV% in their series win over the Panthers.
A concerning aspect of the Islanders has been a sometimes-struggling offense. They finished the regular season as the eighth-lowest scoring offense, highlighted by a seven-game losing streak before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended play.
Those concerns have been alleviated as they scored 13 goals in their four games against the Panthers. Trade deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and winger Anthony Beauvillier each chipped in three goals, giving this team much-needed offensive firepower.
As for Trotz’s former team, the Washington Capitals, they are still at the top of the Eastern Conference, a place they are very familiar with. They played in the round-robin tournament. However, they lost twice, placing them at the third seed. Their offense lacked punch in the tournament as they only scored four goals in their three games.
However, this is still a team full of championship experience and two players from that team, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson, are elite players who can propel this team on another deep playoff run. Ovechkin is tied with Boston’s David Pastrnak for the NHL lead in goals scored with 48. Carlson is fourth in the NHL in assists with 60. With these two leading the way, the Capitals are a threat against any opponent they face.
Trotz facing his former team will be very fun to watch. He knows many players on the Capitals and will implement his aggressive scheme to slow them down. The Islanders match up well with the methodical Capitals’ scheme and Trotz will ultimately get the last laugh over his former team.
Prediction: Islanders in 7