Barry Trotz was familiar with early playoff exits even before he came to the Washington Capitals. It took fifteen seasons coaching the Nashville Predators, and three with the Capitals, before Trotz made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
After winning Game Three in double-overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Trotz had a hunch that the Capitals could be onto something special.
“I think my coaching staff thought I was a little bit crazy,” Trotz told Jonathan Bombulie of TribLive on Tuesday. “We scored that overtime goal in Columbus in Game Three and I said, ‘We’re going to win the Cup this year.’ And we did. I’m not Nostradamus or anything, but you have a feeling.”
Trotz is referring to Lars Eller’s lucky double overtime goal.
Let me set the scene. Brett Connolly fired a quick one-timer on net and Sergei Bobrovsky spilled a juicy rebound. The puck hopped up in the air, and Columbus defenseman Zack Werenski scuffed a clearing attempt off of Lars Eller. The puck then ricocheted off of Eller’s leg and back off Werenski before crossing the goal line.
The goal changed the course of the series and the Capitals’ entire playoff run. The sudden puck luck rejuvenated the Capitals, and they won the next three games of the series, outscoring the Blue Jackets 14 to 7. The Capitals won 15 of their next 21 games to capture the Stanley Cup.
Trotz also talked about the pressure to win–especially against the Penguins franchise–that he had become so familiar with.
“In Washington, there’s real pressure in that building. It’s hard to understand it until you really live it,” Trotz said. “Everybody always talks about it. Even media, you guys don’t even feel it. It’s a real thing there and we broke through it.”
Trotz said that finally breaking through in Pittsburgh was a lesson in patience and learning and that he and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan have a mutual admiration for each other because of it.
“When you play them 100 times like we did, you finally figure it out. The odds were going in our favor. Between me and you, every time we played, we learned something new,” he said. “He’s a fantastic coach. He’s won a couple of rings with this group and they play hard every night.”
Trotz has a former Penguin on his new Islanders team: Tom Kuhnackl, whose near miss in Game Six of the Capitals/Penguins series could have brought them to a Game Seven. According to Kuhnackl, Trotz isn’t shy about bringing it up.
Tom Kuhnhackl off the post pic.twitter.com/HTF9tLe1Rn
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) May 8, 2018
“I think we have that conversation every week,” Kuhnhackl said. “I’m sure he’s going to continue talking about it for the rest of the season.”
Trotz is more familiar than most with lucky (and unlucky) bounces.
“I said, ‘You were that close,’” Trotz told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But you can talk to every coach who has won a Cup. There’s that moment where, if that goes in, one team may be going home. You get that save, you get that post, you go back the other way and score.”
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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