From start to finish, the play on Beauvillier’s second goal in Game 5 Thursday night encapsulated the New York Islanders. They have the young speed, skill and talent to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and coach Barry Trotz’s trademark structure and toughness that makes them a difficult opponent for any team in the NHL.
”When we’re playing the right way, you can feel it on the bench,” forward Josh Bailey said after eliminating the Washington Capitals with a 4-0 win in Game 5 on Thursday night. ”(Beauvillier has) really stepped up his game, been a big leader for us, scored some big goals. … He’s doing a lot of things well. It’s a lot of fun to play with him.”
The Islanders are having fun and take some major confidence into the next round after dispatching the Capitals. They’ll face the Eastern Conference top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers if they hold on to beat the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins if they don’t.
If New York plays like it did for most of the first round, it’ll give either Philadelphia or Boston a major challenge.
”As a team, we always try to say that it’s about what we do, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” defenseman Adam Pelech said. ”We just try to stick to our game plan and the things that make us successful.”
That’s team defense from the forwards back to goaltender Semyon Varlamov – the kind of suffocating style that when done correctly can bother even the most talented players on the other side.
”We knew what kind of hockey team they are over there and how they can be very frustrating to play against,” said Capitals Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson, who won the Cup with Trotz in 2018. ”We didn’t do enough long enough.”
That’s Trotz hockey, and it works even better with scoring punch to go the other way. In Washington, it was Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Carlson, while in New York it’s Beauvillier and Matt Barzal, who combined for five goals in the first round.
”Trying to go out there and play your best and help your team to win,” Beauvillier said. ”That’s kind of my main focus these last couple weeks and it’s been working. I don’t know. It’s going to be the same focus moving on and it’s really not something I’m going to think about.”
Whoever draws the Islanders will have to think about how to contain Beauvillier, Barzal, Bailey, Anders Lee and the rest of this unsung offense. Unlike the Capitals, who had only three players score a goal in the first round, New York got contributions from all over to move on.
”It was a team effort,” Trotz said. ”There wasn’t anybody that you could say, ‘This line wasn’t really good, this line wasn’t really good.’ … You just want to bring your best, and if your best is not good enough and you don’t win, you can accept that.”
The best might be yet to come for this team, which ran out of gas in the second round in a 2019 loss to Carolina. The Islanders have another year of experience since that series and have taken on Trotz’s playoff mentality that has worked so well.
”We’re obviously happy to move on, but you turn the page,” Bailey said. ”I think everyone realizes there’s still a long way to go. We’re going to have another tough opponent no matter who it is, so enjoy it tonight and then we’ll refocus and get ready and try and do what we need to do to get the job done.”