Barry Despite won the Stanley Cup two years ago with a star-studded Capitals squad. Now he’s sent her home early with a largely unknown squad that embodies the team.
The Islanders, who learned they’ll play the Flyers in the next round after Philadelphia eliminated the Canadiens on Friday, have certainly made some star worthy efforts on the way from young strikers Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, but they are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for playing up and down the line-up as a group.
“I think we did a great job as a team,” said defender Adam Pelech after the islanders ended the series with a 4-0 win over the capital cities in Game 5 on Thursday night. It takes the strikers, it takes the defenders and a great goal to limit a team like this. “
Last year’s playoff run ended when the islanders were swept by the Hurricanes in the second round. This time around – after treating the Panthers in Stanley Cup qualifiers and dismantling the Capitals in the first round – they seem prepared to have a better shot in the second round than they had Friday off.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is to get to the playoffs,” said Spy. “It’s extremely difficult to get through this first lap. We have already created two of them in this new format. It speaks a lot about our group. They have a good focus, they understand how to play and how intensely and how disciplined and how focused and how committed you have to be to be successful. They did it.
“That is good for the management group. It starts at the top with [general manager Lou Lamoriello], to our players and our leadership from Anders Lee and [Josh] Bailey and [Johnny] Boychuk and such people. Then you see the growth of some of our younger players, like a Beauvillier and a Barzal, and a man like Brock Nelson who doesn’t get enough recognition in the league … It’s a team effort. Then add some pieces like an Andy Greene, [who] fit really well, and a [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau. It just balances everything. “
Despite going into the postseason every four years when he was with the Capitals before they concluded his tenure in Washington with a Stanley Cup in 2018. They did so with big names like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie Points, John Carlson leads the blue line and Braden Holtby locks them on the net.
Outside of Long Island at least, the Islanders don’t seem to be on the same punch, with Beauvillier, Barzal, Nelson and Bailey providing the points, Pelech and Ryan Pulock taking on the top defensive pairs and Semyon Varlamov making it through the net. But throughout the line-up, they’ve shopped into Despite’s system and reaped the rewards.
“When we step on the ice, everyone knows what they’re doing,” said Varlamov. “We believe in this structure and we believe in our coaching staff.”
With his old team in the rear-view mirror, Spy is looking for the same goal again.
“I had invested so much in this group of core players. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me, ”he said. “I try to have the same relationships with my group and I hope we can share something special.”