Barry Trotz keeping Islanders’ Game 2 starter under wraps

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Barry Trotz hasn’t won at least one playoff series in each of the last seven years, including his three seasons with the Islanders, by voluntarily offering up state secrets.

Trotz has played coy with his goaltending decisions throughout this postseason and regurgitated his joke from the previous round when asked Monday about his goalie plans before the Isles looked to even their second-round series against the Bruins in Boston.

“It’ll be a Russian, left-handed goaltender,” Trotz quipped.

Veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov has not started since allowing seven goals in successive losses in Games 2 and 3 against Pittsburgh, but rookie Ilya Sorokin surrendered four – including a David Pastrnak hat trick — in stumbling for the first time in five playoff starts in Saturday’s 5-2 series-opening loss.

Trotz said he gave the Game 2 decision “a lot of thought,” but he explained his reasoning for not divulging too much information at this time of year.

Ilya Sorokin's first dud of the 2021 playoffs could mean Semyon Varlamov is back between the posts for Game 2.
Ilya Sorokin’s first dud of the 2021 playoffs could mean Semyon Varlamov is back between the posts for Game 2.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post (2)

“My responsibility is to protect them, no different when certain players are marked up on certain parts of their body,” Trotz said. “Say if you have a rib injury…I guarantee you I’m crosschecking you if I’m an opponent, right in the ribs all the time, giving you a shot, all those things.

“So that’s the protection part. That’s why sometimes you want to give information, but you can’t, just because of the fact that there’s those games that go on during a series. So we try to protect them as best as we can.”

During an optional morning skate at TD Garden, Sorokin was in net, while Varlamov split time at the other end with third-stringer Cory Schneider, according to reports. But Varlamov left the ice first, which often is an indication of that night’s starter.

Trotz did allow that he expected to go with the same 18 skaters as Game 1, meaning impressive 20-year-old rookie Oliver Wahlstrom will miss his third straight game, while late-season pickup Travis Zajac will remain in the lineup after sitting out the first five games of the previous series against the Penguins.

“Still the plan. We’ve got to be better. The same group is going right back out,” Trotz said. “[Wahlstrom] will not play [Monday night]… He’s getting nearer, and we’ll see where we are for Game 3.”

Trotz also spoke for the second consecutive day about the need for No. 1 center Mathew Barzal – the Isles’ leading scorer in the regular season with 45 points – to produce offensively. He entered with zero goals and three assists through the team’s first seven postseason contests.

“The top players get really good matchups. They really have to fight for their inches to have any success in the playoffs,” Trotz said. “I think in the regular season, there’s more room, There just is. So they’re able to create and Mat has been able to do that.

“In the past playoffs, he’s been able to create and put up pretty good numbers. This year it’s been a little different. He’s having a little more of a struggle. I think those players have to fight for the inches, and if you’re not willing to fight for those inches, then you don’t get those inches and those opportunities. He’s got to dig in. This is not about who he’s playing with. It’s about Mathew just digging in a little bit and not getting frustrated…I don’t have a lot of issue with his game. Would I like him to produce a little more? Absolutely. And he will.”


Trotz said the packed crowd in Boston for the opener made the game “feel normal again” after playing in mostly empty arenas during the pandemic, adding he had to “scream” for players to hear his directions. “The masks are becoming chin straps because the players are having trouble hearing you, and that’s part of the normal… a lot more normal than it has been,” he said…


Forward Craig Smith (lower-body) was out for the Bruins.

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