Between Head Coach Barry Trotz, General Manager Lou Lamoriello, and players Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd and Nick Leddy, the New York Islanders have an experienced group of former Stanley Cup champions available to probe as they deepen their playoff run.
This group of former champions had success with different teams, during different eras and under different circumstances, but they share something else in common; the hunger to repeat.
"One thing I can tell you, and I do have the experience now, you want it again," Trotz said. "It's sort of addicting. That's why I think you see people win multiple times. For how long that trophy has been around, there's not as many names on that trophy as you think. There's a lot of repeat offenders on there. Because it's an addicting type of thing. You want to do it again because you know you can."
Trotz is the most recent winner, hoisting the Cup last season with Washington after 20 years of coaching in the NHL. He's looking to win again by employing a 'we over me' mentality with the Islanders, which sacrifices individual results in favor of the team's benefit, and the Islanders appear to have embraced the new system. It seems a little familiar to Leddy, who experienced a similar make-up and culture to the current Islanders locker room during his Cup-winning season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
"It was a mix of a core group of guys that had been there and some fresh, younger guys," said Leddy, who had one goal in four games vs Pittsburgh. "[With Chicago] everyone bought in. We were all going through it together. I see that with this [Islanders] group... I think when you win it once, the hunger is always there to win again. You know how hard of a battle it is to get there and how rewarding it is to win a cup."
Kuhnhackl, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, recalls how the seasoned leadership and insight from the 2009 Penguins championship roster aided him and his fellow young guns during their back-to-back title runs in 2016 and 2017. Now, in a room with rather limited playoff experience, Kuhnhackl hopes to draw upon his impressive resume and offer his own wisdom.
"All of those guys who had played in the playoffs before could teach you," Kuhnhackl said. "And give you advice on how to adjust your game in the playoffs. It obviously helped. Hopefully, I can bring that in this locker room."
Yet even with two rings and 51-career postseason games played, Kuhnhackl is wading in foreign waters this time around. The 27-year-old winger has never faced such an ample amount of downtime in between rounds, as the Isles will have over a week between the first and second rounds. So, while Kuhnhackl navigates this uncharted territory, the German winger is cognizant of how imperative it is that the Isles stay sharp during their week off and execute following the next puck drop.
"It's great that we won the first round and everything, but there's obviously plenty more to come of where we want to go," Kuhnhackl said. "If you sleep [during] the first period or the first game, if you're not ready from the get-go, it's always hard to get back in it. That's why we've got to get ready for the [next round]."
That's where even a former Cup winner like Kuhnhackl can learn from Filppula. While it's been over a decade since Filppula hoisted the cup with the Detroit Red Wings back in 2008, the 35-year-old has played 162 playoff games and has seen it all - including a lengthy postseason break. So, Filppula understands how rest can be an advantage especially given the "unforeseen hand that gets dealt" as Trotz calls it.
"It helps to get the rest," said Filppula, who had four assists in four game against Pittsburgh. "You play pretty much every other day so all the rest you're going to get should help you. [I'm] happy about that. We've just got to be able to take advantage. Sometimes it's tough the first couple of games back, you haven't played in a while and you're trying to get back and playing at a good level. That's something that we've got to be prepared for."
For the playoff rookies like Anthony Beauvillier, having a handful of players on the team with the extensive experiences in the postseason has eased their transition into the NHL's second season. The former Stanley Cup champs have been valuable resources throughout the opening round.
"I was anxious before the first game and talked to [Filppula]," Beauvillier said. "I was nervous what the pace and stuff would be like. But after the first shift you forget about that. I grew up watching playoffs and have played in big [tournaments] before. Once you start playing you just focus on that. [Filppula] told me to just stay patient and play your game."
Beauvillier, has benefitted from playing alongside Filppula and Leo Komarov during his sophomore season. Beauvillier has made an effort to inquire about the knowledge and takeaways that his veteran linemates and former Stanley Cup champions have to offer while the 21-year-old winger gets his first taste of the postseason at the professional level.
"You can't really buy experience," Beauvillier said. "That's why we've got all of these guys that have been here before. They know what to do. They've been in that situation. They've been in that atmosphere [before]. So, when I see how they're calmer and it helps. They know what it takes."