The Nassau Coliseum has not hosted a second-round game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the 1993 Patrick Division Finals. Since then, there have been numerous first-round series at “The Barn”, but the only second-round series that the Islanders have advanced to was 2016 and 2019 at Barclays Center and 2020 in the bubble. That will change this Thursday when the Islanders host the Boston Bruins in game three of their second-round series (730pm NBCSN).
During the regular season, the COVID-19 pandemic limited the number of fans allowed at NHL games. But, after being able to allow ten percent of capacity starting in March, the Islanders hosted crowds of 6,800 for games three and four of the opening round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and then that number jumped up to 9,000 for game six. On Thursday night, the Islanders will welcome a crowd of 12,000 for game three against the Bruins.
“We hope our crowd can give us the same boost that they did in game six against the Penguins,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “You want to come in the Coliseum…it’s a hard place to play. We’ll be ready. It should be electric. Our fans are great. They’re very passionate on the Island. We’ve got home court now so we just gotta maintain it.”
Islanders vs Bruins (Series tied 1-1)
Game 1…Saturday May 29th…Bruins 5 Islanders 2…
Game 2…Monday May 31st…Islanders 4 Bruins 3 (OT)…
Game 3…Thursday June 3rd…Bruins at Islanders…730pm NBCSN
Game 4…Saturday June 5th…Bruins at Islanders…715pm NBC
Game 5…Monday June 7th…Islanders at Bruins…630pm NBCSN
*Game 6…Wednesday June 9th…Bruins at Islanders…TBD
*Game 7…Friday June 11th…Islanders at Bruins…TBD
The atmosphere in Boston for games one and two was electric as the Bruins were able to welcome capacity crowds. And now, it’s an opportunity for Islanders Country to turn up the noise at Nassau Coliseum to levels that haven’t been heard at the building in quite a while.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Islanders forward Casey Cizikas who scored the game winning goal in overtime that gave the Isles a 4-3 win in game two to even the series at a game apiece. “We know how that barn rocks and we’re going to build off that crowd and we’re looking forward to it.”
Playing in front of five figure crowds has been like a whole new world for the Islanders.
During last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, they played at empty arenas in Toronto and Edmonton. When this season started, the Islanders did not play in front of fans until a 2-1 win over the Devils on March 2nd in New Jersey. The Nassau Coliseum began welcoming a small number of fans on March 11th when 1,000 frontline healthcare workers were guests of the Islanders for a 5-3 win over the Devils. Starting on March 18th, the Islanders began welcoming 1,400 fans which was ten percent of capacity and then that number began to increase for the playoffs.
Having fans in the building has made a huge difference for the Islanders and all of the teams that have been able to welcome an increased number of fans for the playoffs.
“The crowd is able to keep the momentum a lot more,” said Trotz. “It is very important that you really dig in because they do have an effect on the game more so than the empty buildings…no question. As it keeps increasing, it’s increasing the chance for you to keep the momentum if you score or you have a good stretch.”
During the Islanders storied history at Nassau Coliseum, there have been so many nights when it was so loud in “The Barn” that you thought the noise was going to blow the roof off of the place. With 12,000 fans, essentially a full house, in attendance for this round against the Bruins, the Nassau Coliseum is going to have a somewhat “normal” feel to it for how ever number of games it will host before season’s end.
For the record, only 1,400 fans were at what is expected to be the Islanders’ final regular season game at the Nassau Coliseum back on May 8th, but now the building is going to feel and sound like the old days until the Islanders leave “The Barn” for good. If the Islanders and their fans get their wish, that won’t be until after the Stanley Cup Final in July.