Capitals players talk Trotz game: ‘Now he’s on the other side’


NEW YORK — Alex Ovechkin last talked with Barry Trotz when Trotz had his day with the Stanley Cup.

They’re sure to talk again Monday night when the Washington Capitals give Trotz his Stanley Cup ring before they play Trotz’s new team, the New York Islanders, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The ceremony will take place inside the visitors’ locker room. Allowing an opposing coach inside is certainly a rare move in the world of sports.

“Yeah, it’s probably a first,” Tom Wilson said. “Now he’s on the other side and you’ve got to go out there and hopefully take a win from him. It’ll be interesting, it’ll be good to see them before and tie it, come full circle, get them the ring that those guys really deserve and have a little bit of a fun celebration. Then it’ll be all business.”

But that “all business” can include a little bit of fun.

“The hockey world’s pretty small and it’s always kind of fun when you have a game where you want to beat somebody you know,” Wilson said. “Obviously, he got pretty close to this team over the course of four years. So, it’ll be a little weird, and I’m interested to see how it goes.”

Nicklas Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly said their favorite memories of Trotz were winning the Cup together last June. Wilson said he had “lots” of favorites, especially the lighter moments.

“First couple of years we were a little more serious, and then, he’s a character,” Wilson said. “You know we had some good laughs as a group toward the end, whether it was the hot lap or something that went down in practice.

“He was great at, when there was time to be serious, dial it in, but he knew when it was time to laugh and have a good time and keep the room light,” he added. “That’s what it took to win, and there were some good times along the way.”

Despite the uniqueness of Monday’s schedule of events and the fondness many Capitals still have for Trotz, the team has not hyped it as “The Trotz Game” or treated their focus any differently.

“(Trotz) was with us for four years and he was a great coach for us, but I mean, tonight’s going to be a battle about two points,” Backstrom said. “He wants to win, and we want to win. So, great opportunity for us.”

If there’s any difference in the Capitals‘ preparation for this game, it has to do with knowing some of Trotz’s tendencies and philosophies he implemented in New York.

“You look at a system that’s probably pretty similar to ours. You try and dissect basically how to beat yourself, kind of,” Wilson said. “Obviously he was here for a long time. There’s still stuff that he did, even Reirds, Lane and Barry, they’d work together to come up with a system that they thought would work. We have some of that, now they have some of that.”

Smith-Pelly is still grateful that Trotz believed in him enough to sign him as a free agent in the summer of 2017. That belief has parlayed into Smith-Pelly earning another one-year deal in Washington, as well as a Stanley Cup “folk hero” reputation for scoring three goals in the championship series.

“(Trotz) always would talk to me and let me know what I need to do to play and be in the lineup,” Smith-Pelly said. “There’s no gray area. So I thank him a lot for that.”

The Capitals and Islanders play Monday at 7 p.m.

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