Past 2 Stanley Cup champs struggling so far in first round of NHL playoffs

New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck, top, takes out Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd during their NHL Eastern Conference playoff game in Toronto on Wednesday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Hours after the Washington Capitals were sunk by allowing four consecutive goals, St. Louis coach Craig Berube saw his Blues lose confidence after falling behind in their Game 1.

It shouldn’t be that easy for the last two Stanley Cup winners to fall apart, but the Capitals now have to come back in their series against former coach Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders, and the defending champion Blues trail the smaller, quicker Vancouver Canucks.

St. Louis will try to recapture its swagger in today’s Game 2 (6:30 p.m., NBC Sports and NHL Network)

“Maybe we don’t have it right now,” Berube said. “We’ve got to come out the next shift and just get right back at what we were doing well. That’s what we were so good at before. We’ve got to get back to that. We’ve come from behind. we won in a lot of different ways and fashions, so we can’t let one goal affect us.”

Perhaps there’s a common explanation to the Capitals’ and Blues’ struggles to ramp up their games. They each play a big, heavy style that Boston coach Bruce Cassidy theorized takes longer to get going than smaller, skilled teams.

Trotz knows that well from coaching the Capitals to their first title in franchise history in 2018.

“Some of the bigger teams take a little while to get rolling,” Trotz said. “I’ve lived it on the other end. I do subscribe to that that some of the bigger teams will take some time to wear you out, but if you’re playing another big team, then it’s pretty well equal.”

The Islanders aren’t afraid to play that style, either, and they’ll try to do the same in Game 2 (8 p.m., NBCS).

“We’re both going to try to wear each other down,” New York forward Cal Clutterbuck said. “Good. I love it. Let’s go.”

Washington will try to mount a comeback with top center Nicklas Backstrom, who’s in concussion protocol after a big hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in the first period of Game 1. Lars Eller slots back in after an absence for the birth of his son, Alexander, and Travis Boyd remains in the lineup.


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