At what point would Islanders head coach Barry Trotz feel it’s necessary to make a change in his lineup?
The Islanders aren’t a team that often shakes up its lines. That’s a testament to Trotz’s confidence in his combinations and the chemistry that each trio has been able to develop over, not just months, but in some cases, seasons of skating with one another.
Trotz really only makes lineup adjustments due to injury. Such was the case when captain Anders Lee underwent ACL surgery in March and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. It happened again when Oliver Wahlstrom sustained a lower-body injury in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series against the Penguins.
Otherwise, Trotz is seemingly a believer in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy. But as the Islanders face a 2-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup semifinal series against a tenacious Lightning squad, it may be nearing the time to reevaluate the lineup.
Wahlstrom, the rookie sharpshooter, has been available since the start of the Stanley Cup semifinals, which was evident when he took pregame warmups before the series-opener for the first time since sustaining his injury.
Trotz made it clear, however, that he was comfortable with how Travis Zajac had performed in Wahlstrom’s place on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri. And even though the Islanders have met their match defensively in the Lightning, it appears Trotz isn’t going to start making any rash lineup decisions over two tight losses.
“We’re looking into it,” Trotz said Friday when asked about making changes. “We played a pretty solid game. I don’t have [a problem with] too many things in our game. I think we have to get to the net better. Obviously, the chances we did have, I thought [Lightning goalie Andrei] Vasilevskiy made some key saves, just like [Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov] did. But really an even game for me.”
After acknowledging that he has “a lot of faith” in Wahlstrom should he decide to put him back in the lineup, Trotz added that his team isn’t used to changes and can “sometimes go into a bit of a spin cycle” when he makes them.
With all of that being taken under consideration, Trotz said the coaching staff is looking at what is available and are working toward making a decision. But it sounded like Trotz wasn’t at all alarmed by his team’s play in the 2-1 loss in Game 2 Thursday night, which likely means he’ll wait a bit longer to begin making alterations.
“When you’re looking at it, you look at did you play a bad game? Not really. Did you play well enough to win? Yes, but we didn’t win,” Trotz said. “So when you go away from that game, and you [ask], ‘Do we make changes or do you give that group a shot and say this is going we just have to get the next game.’ It’s inches, you win your inches, you win the game. That’s really what we’re going through with our lineup.
“It’s easy to go, ‘Hey, we’re gonna mix up all the lines.’ And then you have everybody going, ‘Alright, were we that bad? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’ ”
Shuffling the lines is certainly on the table right now with a 2-1 series deficit, it just may become the Islanders’ only option should another loss pile on.