Tonight the New York Islanders continue their five-game home stand against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If you’re scratching your heading thinking, didn’t they just have one of these? You’re right!
It’s strange how the NHL schedules can shake out from year-to-year. This season, the Isles happen to be home-heavy with 10 of their first 13 games at Barclays Center. They will make up for this plethora of home games with a franchise long nine-game road trip from the end of February into March.
A few things jump to mind when I think about that. First, I’m thrilled we will not be in Western Canada during the coldest months of the season as we were in years past. Sorry that’s a little selfish on my part, but anyone who travels with the team, staff, trainers, players, and media alike will agree; visiting Winnipeg at the end of December or in January gives you chills for days. It is, however, fun for our producer Jim, who loves thinking of creative ways to kick off our show. Hence me standing at the corner Portage and Main my first season covering the team.
The most important part of this schedule situation, however, has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with stockpiling points early. This wasn’t accomplished in the first few weeks of the season as the Isles worked to get comfortable with new players joining the team. It was clear that most of the forwards were struggling to find a rhythm. After dropping back-to-back games, first to Montreal and then Pittsburgh, the Isles only had six points in their first eight games. Sure they had bursts of good play, but it wasn’t all coming together. You could feel the frustration in the dressing room after the loss to the Penguins.
But when they took the ice Sunday against Toronto, there was definitely some pep in their step. Casey Cizikas told me during intermission that the team “had a talking to” Saturday. Something must have clicked because five different players scored goals and four Islanders put together multi-point games.
I could feel a collective exhale in the arena after they beat Toronto. That was exactly what they needed to set the tone for their second chance at an extended home stand.
The team will have to bring that energy and offense to get past their next obstacle tonight as Steven Stamkos and the Lightning come to town. But they could use your help, too.
I’ve mentioned many times how much the players appreciate the Islanders fans who show up all season to cheer them on. I hear it from the team often. When it’s loud, it makes a difference in the game. The Isles feed off that energy. Throughout the season, I meet amazing fans who come from Long Island, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Connecticut and throughout the metro area to cheer for the blue-and-orange. But I’m always excited to meet the people who travel hundreds and thousands of miles to cheer for their favorite team.
Just this Sunday I saw a couple who visit from California every season for a few games. They always make a point to drop by and say hello at our set. This year, they invited me for Thanksgiving since the team will be out in San Jose then. They live on the other side of the country, but rarely miss a game on TV. Being in Brooklyn to cheer on the Isles is the highlight of their fall. They were also very helpful in giving my mom (who’s also here to check out a few games) tips on the best way to watch Isles games with a sling box.
If you think California is impressive, how about Malta! I love reading signs at games and this was one of my favorite for the matchup against the Leafs.
Yes, even on a small island with a population under 500,000, the sport of hockey and the Islanders are connecting with people.
So with four more games to go on this home stand … join the thousands of strangers who you have at least one thing in common with.
Come out to a game and help fill the building with chants of YES! YES! YES!