Ryan Pulock is living the bubble life as are all 16 teams still remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Coached by Barry Trotz, the Islanders played the Florida Panthers in the first-round best-of-five series. After he was held off the scoresheet in the first game of the series, Pulock had one goal and one assist in the second game. He followed that up with a pair of assists in the next two games of the series to finish with one goal and three assists. Most importantly, the Islanders won the best-of-five in four games.
Pulock played more than 20 minutes in three of the four games.
“Yeah, that was good for our team. Everyone came back sharp and we had a really good training camp,” said Pulock from Toronto. “We did a pretty good job of 5-on-5 in that series. We competed well and I think our execution should help us going forward.”
Anthony Beauvillier leads New York with five points after a three-goal, two-assist qualification series. Three skaters are right behind Beauvillier in points with four, including the Grandview native who has already broken his previous NHL playoff record in points. He had one assist in eight games last season.
“I want to bring some of that offensive touch to the team. That’s an important thing for me,” added Pulock. “Obviously my main goal is focusing on my own defensive game, but I like to chip in offensively when I can.”
The Bubble is something that the NHL has implemented so that the playoffs can be played and to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission among players, coaches, and all team officials. The Western Conference is in Edmonton while Pulock, Trotz, the Islanders and the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams find themselves in Toronto.
All teams are in their designated hotels and they’re not able to leave, although the NHL has certain activities and areas that players can go. Pulock hasn’t been able to golf yet. However, he has heard rumours that it could be an option going forward, and as an avid golfer, that’s always intriguing news.
At the end of the day, however, it’s all about the task at hand and that’s winning games.
“It’s actually been pretty fun. Each team has their designated floor and we’ve had the chance to have a big ping pong tournament,” shared Pulock. “We’re getting a great chance to bond with each other and become closer. I think the NHL has done a great job in setting things up and doing everything they can to make sure everyone is safe.”
Pulock says life in the bubble has exceeded his expectations.
Trotz against former team
One of the biggest headlines heading into New York’s series against the Washington Capitals is Barry Trotz. He led the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup title in 2018 when they beat the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, Trotz is on the opposing team’s bench as he looks to guide the Islanders to a title.
The two teams went 2-2 against each other in the regular season. Trotz is known as a coach that gets his team to focus on defense first, and they will certainly have their hands full starting this afternoon. Led by John Carlson’s 75 points in the regular season, Alex Ovechkin finished with 67, 48 of which were goals. Nicklas Backstrom is also a severe threat. In net, Braden Holtby played in all three round-robin games for Washington, going 1-1-1 with a .925 save percentage and a 1.98 goals-against average.
“We know it’s going to be a tough matchup, but we’re confident,” offered Pulock. “We have to do a great job 5-on-5 and we have to stay out of the box because they’re pretty lethal on the power play. We’re two teams with some big guys who like to play tough so it should be a heavy series.”
Teams still have their own horns after they score a goal, but that really is the one thing similar to what they’re used to. All games in both Toronto and Edmonton are being played without fans in the stands. The NHL is doing its best to provide fans an enjoyable experience on the television.
On the ice, it’s business as usual, just without thousands and thousands of fans screaming and heckling in the stands.
“It’s been a little different, but I don’t think it’s been as bad as I expected,” ended Pulock. “I think the NHL has done a good job with some of the noise they’ve pumped in; it kind of feels real. We’re playing for a Stanley Cup so the intensity is high and everyone knows what’s up for grabs.”
Every single one of Pulock’s games will be broadcast on Sportsnet.