Coach calls support from players, organization ‘very heartwarming to me’, Barry Trotz appreciated being back on the ice with the New York Islanders for practice Saturday after the coach was away to attend the funeral of his mother in Dauphin, Manitoba.
Iris Trotz died Jan. 1. She was 78 years old.
“It is very meaningful for a couple reasons,” Trotz said of rejoining the Islanders. “The way the organization reacted, allowing me to go home and take the necessary time, the players reaching out. And then just watching them today, the effort and the work ethic that they’ve each put in. It’s not easy, obviously, with the 10-day sort-of break. They’ve done a really good job.”
Trotz missed the Islanders’ 3-2 overtime victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 1, and they haven’t played since then because of postponements related to COVID-19. By the Islanders’ next game, against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, they will have played two games since Dec. 19 because of the holiday break and eight postponed games during a 24-day span.
The break allowed Trotz to take the time he needed with his family to mourn the loss of his mother.
“I loved my mom, and some of the things that I looked back on that she did over the years molded me and my sister, just as my dad did,” Trotz said. “So any success that we’ve had as a family, I’ve had personally or my sister has, it’s from our parents. … This is the first time I’ve lost a parent, so it’s very difficult. I have a better understanding when it happens to someone else.
“I just want to thank everybody who has reached out, not only with the Islander organization. The fans and what have you reached out. It’s very heartwarming to me and comforting that we’re one big family.”
Trotz’s hockey family equally was happy to have him back.
“It’s always tough losing a loved one,” forward Brock Nelson said. “So seeing him back, he quickly addressed the team and it was nice to see him. I think it just shows he enjoys being here every day and to be a leader and win for us.”
Associate coach Lane Lambert filled in for Trotz during his absence, running the bench against the Oilers and conducting practices with help from assistants Jim Hiller and John Gruden.
New York (10-12-6) is last in the eight-team Metropolitan Division but has played an NHL-low 28 games.
Despite the stops and starts, the Islanders have shown signs of improvement, going 3-0-1 in their past four games, and they are 5-2-1 following an 0-8-3 stretch.
Eager to play, the Islanders are trying to avoid looking too much at the standings while awaiting their next game.
“Watching the games, you kind of wish we were out there playing and get our legs going,” forward Anthony Beauvillier said. “Definitely the last couple games we were obviously building confidence in our game as well. So definitely a little bit frustrating, the break there, but we’re working hard in practices and stuff.”
Trotz said it will be important to focus on the next game and not worry about the gap New York will have to overcome to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He recalled facing a similar situation when coaching Portland in the American Hockey League in the 1995-96 season. After snowstorms caused multiple postponements, Portland had to play six games during a nine-day span in February and won the last five to jump-start a run to the Calder Cup Final.
“So I think just worry about the first game and then go from there,” Trotz said. “There’s going to be a lot of games, a lot of opportunities to get points and move up in the standings. You just take it day by day, but just keep playing.”
The Islanders have 54 regular-season games left, so there is time to make up ground, but they also know they must play with urgency and build off the success they were starting to have before this latest break.
“It’s just been a little bit of a different start to the season for us and we’re in a little bit of a hole, but we can’t look at the standings every day right now on break,” Nelson said. “You [can’t] get too worked up about it, but also you have to realize that once we get back into it, it’s going to be a sprint with a lot of games in a short span. So we’re going to need to get on a roll right away and bank some points.”
Ducks rookie Zegras can do it all, makes nice glove save at practice
Glove save and a beauty by… Trevor Zegras?
The Anaheim Ducks forward did his best impersonation of teammate John Gibson at practice on Friday making a stylish-looking glove save on a teammate.
Zegras shared the video clip on social media under the name “Trevor Gibson.”
The Ducks official account clearly loved it.
We ask you, however, not to look to closely at the clip or watch it too many times, as upon each viewing you’ll see a shot in Zegras’ direction that was not exactly NHL-level quality.
Instead of looking at this one, go watch Zegras’ incredible lacrosse-style assist again. That one holds up very well upon repeat viewings.
Makar OT goal for Avalanche latest in debate for best of season
Cale Makar got the attention of the hockey world Tuesday with his spectacular overtime goal for the Colorado Avalanche against the Chicago Blackhawks. The defenseman spun away from Chicago forward Kirby Dach along the left wall before deking from forehand to backhand and shooting just under the crossbar.
The goal set the internet on fire, was the top play of the night on ESPN, and entered the conversation for best goal of the 2021-22 season, joining Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers skating through four New York Rangers to score Nov. 5, and Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano of the Anaheim Ducks taking “The Michigan” goal to a new level against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 7.
But which right now is the goal of the season? We had six NHL.com writers and editors weigh in on the growing debate:
The clear choice here is Makar. He took a pass from forward Nathan MacKinnon and skated behind the net to the left circle. Then he spun to his left, evading Dach, and scored on a backhand over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Makar said he was a little bit lucky. A humble answer, but I don’t think luck had much to do with it. His stellar skills were on full display. Makar, who won the Calder Trophy voted as NHL rookie of the year in 2019-20, will probably win a Norris Trophy (or a few) as the defenseman voted the best in the NHL. There’s no doubt he’ll make a few highlight reels with his goal-scoring prowess as well, and his goal against the Blackhawks likely will be the finest of that collection. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
I’m trying to avoid recency bias because the Makar goal was scored Tuesday, but I can’t overlook what the Avalanche defenseman did. Speed, power, finesse, pinpoint precision. Each of those skills was on display when Makar lost his check, Dach, by turning on a dime in the left circle before accelerating toward the net, going backhand-forward-backhand to keep Fleury guessing, and finishing under the crossbar for the winner. Just an incredible nine seconds of Makar greatness, start to finish. And it was a clutch goal too, lifting Colorado to a 4-3 win. — Jim Cerny, senior editor
McDavid beats four Rangers
Beating one opposing player is good. Two is better. Three is impressive. But skating past four defenders en route to a tying goal with 2:59 remaining in the third period? That’s McDavid in a nutshell. The Oilers center pulled off the nearly unbelievable feat Nov. 5, using his patience and his puck-handling skill to outwit and outmaneuver four Rangers — Dryden Hunt, Kevin Rooney, Jacob Trouba and Patrik Nemeth — before deking goalie Alexandar Georgiev enough to give himself the open net and the easy tuck-in. The goal, which came on a move Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said was “like a knife through butter,” sent the game to overtime, where Draisaitl scored for a 6-5 comeback victory. And that’s what’s craziest about McDavid’s goal, which in my mind is the best of the season so far: How easy he made it seem. As Edmonton forward Zach Hyman later told ESPN, “It’s almost normal for him to make a play like that.” Which, somehow, it is. Still, even as we become accustomed to daily brilliance from McDavid, there are some goals that tower above the rest. Like this one. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
I have to go with Amalie on this one, and I’m not trying to take away anything from Makar or Zegras and Milano, but rather give the credit to McDavid. Though we are used to seeing spectacular goals from McDavid on a regular basis, he seems to raise the bar with each new highlight. I had to watch the goal against the Rangers at least four or five times to make sure what I was seeing actually happened. Not only did McDavid skate through four Rangers, he did so with ease. Not one of those players got his stick near the puck or made him break stride. And, oh yeah, he still had a goalie to beat, which he did, again, with ease. And lost in all of it is the patience he showed in the neutral zone before attacking the Rangers, waiting until the moment was right to go to the net. I can’t wait to see what he does for an encore. — Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief
Zegras, Milano and “The Michigan” pass
We’ve seen “The Michigan” goal. Now we have “The Michigan” pass into the alley-oop goal courtesy of the creative combination of Zegras and Milano, the Ducks forwards who wowed the hockey world in Buffalo on Dec. 7. Zegras settled the puck on his stick blade the same way former University of Michigan forward Mike Legg did in 1996 when he first scored on “The Michigan,” the lacrosse-style wraparound goal from behind the net into the near top corner. Except Zegras, ever the playmaker, flipped the puck from behind the net up and over the crossbar to the front, where Milano stood. Milano batted the puck out of the air and into the net, the NHL version of an alley-oop slam dunk for the first goal in the Ducks’ 2-0 win at the Sabres. Zegras was so surprised it worked that he put his hands on his head and had a look of disbelief when Milano went to celebrate with him. He even was giggling on the bench as replays were shown, still in shock that they could pull it off. It’s the goal of the season so far because it gets 10s across the board for creativity, difficulty, skill and artistic form. It’s a goal we’d never seen in the NHL. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
McDavid’s goal, though awesome, wasn’t all that surprising coming from him. Makar’s goal was a thing of beauty, yet we’ve seen similar plays before. But for Zegras to have the presence of mind to make the pass from behind the net to Milano was a risky play that paid off. Zegras could have tried to make something happen himself with a wraparound or a stuff attempt, but the fact that he saw another way of scoring as a possibility showed his talent. The move may have worked in practice before, but to see it executed in a game was amazing, and we may not see it again anytime soon. — David Satriano, staff writer
2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic logo unveiled
The National Hockey League today unveiled the 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ logo.
The 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ logo is inspired by the strength and character of the city of Hamilton and its historic steel industry. The horseshoe holding shape draws its inspiration from the City of Hamilton crest. The colours used are inspired by those of the Maple Leafs, Sabres and City of Hamilton crest. The stamped metal “Heritage Classic” typography, forged sticks and steel-plated crest pays homage to the City of Hamilton’s history in the Canadian steel industry and the six rivets represent the total number of NHL Heritage Classic games including this year’s edition.
The 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres on March 13, 2022, at Tim Hortons Field, in Hamilton, Ont., home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet, via stream on SN NOW, NHL Live, TVA Sports and TNT at 3 p.m. ET.