Familiarity breeds respect among NHL East playoff teams

FILE - In this April 6, 2019, file photo, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, top center, watches from the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, in Washington. Trotz faces a familiar foe with New York preparing to open the first round against his former team, the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
FILE - In this April 6, 2019, file photo, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, top center, watches from the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, in Washington. Trotz faces a familiar foe with New York preparing to open the first round against his former team, the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TORONTO, ONT – Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper took exception to the Columbus Blue Jackets being referred to as “a blue-collar” team.

“Is that a positive or a negative?” Cooper said Monday, a day before his Eastern Conference second-seeded Lightning open the first round of the NHL playoffs against the seventh-seeded Blue Jackets.

“If blue-collar means a hard-working team, they are. But they don’t have blue-collar talent,” he added. “They have blue-chip talent.”

Cooper and the Lightning know just how good the Blue Jackets are in a rematch of last season’s first-round series in which Columbus swept the Presidents' Trophy winners in four games.

“What happened last year, happened last year. That’s in the history books forever,” Cooper said, noting how both teams have made various changes to their lineups. “I wouldn’t call them a blue-collar team. I’d call them a really good team.”

Familiarity is breeding respect among the East opponents entering the first round.

Fourth-seeded Boston and Carolina open on Tuesday, a year after the Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the conference finals.

The other two series, which begin Wednesday, feature coaches facing their former teams.