“The Boys are Back in Town.” — Thin Lizzy
This 1976 hit song rang true then and still holds water now.
The last time we saw the Islanders, they were dispatching the Penguins in Game 4 of their opening round match up. And that game was played at the less than friendly PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
However, the Isles did begin their four-game sweep of the Pens at their cozy barn, NYCB Live: The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Throughout the regular season, the Islanders split time between The Coliseum and Barclays Center in Brooklyn — to the tune of a 21-20 split. (With The Coliseum holding the one-game edge).
And that split was also represented in the wins column, as the Isles recorded 12 wins at each venue; before adding on two more at The Coliseum during Games 1 & 2 of the first-round of the playoffs.
But now, due to a deal struck between the two arenas, the NHL and the Islanders themselves, the second-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs will be held in Brooklyn; as will any additional home games the Isles require should they advance beyond Round Two. And thanks to that deal, the NHL’s wandering franchise returns to a building it hasn’t played a game in since February 16th — over two months ago.
So the question now becomes, can Barclays Center replicate the feeling of Nassau Coliseum?
The Coliseum has always been the center of the Isles’ fanbase. And that was proven true once again during the two games the Islanders played there against Pittsburgh just a couple weeks ago, as Penguins’ players looked like they had seen ghosts.
The electricity in the crowd at The Old Barn will always be a staple of the Isles’ history. It has given the team an overwhelming advantage on numerous occasions. And if you don’t believe me, let me list some other examples for you.
In 2013 the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks steamrolled through the regular season to the tune of a 13-3 record. They then proceeded to march through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, all while touting the energy of the fans, who they dubbed, “the 12th man on the field.” (For those who don’t follow Football, you only have 11 men on the field per team).
Throughout the history of the MLB’s, New York Yankees, opposing players and fans alike have consistently referenced the “Mystique and Aura” that Yankee Stadium and its’ fans created. (And no Curt Schilling, those are still not dancers at a nightclub).
As for a more recent example, look no further than Game 7 between the Sharks and Golden Knights just the other day. When San Jose’s captain, Joe Pavelski was knocked out of the game due to a head injury, the Sharks’ fans reached such a fever pitch that the Vegas skaters were visibly unnerved when the home team scored four power-play goals on a very controversial five-minute major penalty. And with each passing second, the fans continued to rattle the Knights.
But getting back to the Islanders.
For only the third time in the past 26-years, the Islanders are in the second-round of the playoffs. And that alone should draw fans to the games. But Barclays Center hasn’t been as kind to the Isles in that regard.
However, there is one exception and that is the last time the Islanders advanced this far — the 2015-16 season. Several players currently on the team, have expressed how wonderful it was to play at Barclays Center during that playoff run. And if the Isles are to advance any further, they are going to need the fans to be behind them no matter what arena they call home.
After all, Coach Barry Trotz has made it a consistent point of emphasis to stress just how important the fans are to the team. And he’s not joking.
Here’s to hoping the Long Island RailRoad is functioning perfectly, because for the next couple of weeks (at least), Islanders fans better get used to crossing the border into Brooklyn