By Brett Malamud
Silence. That can be heard early Monday afternoon in the little barn in Uniondale. But turn back the clock a mere 24 hours, and you have arguably the loudest atmosphere that any team will experience in the playoffs this season. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be closing its doors at the end of the year, and New York Islanders fans are giving the building the ultimate send off.
Fans were challenged on Saturday afternoon, as the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin gave his expectations for Sunday’s game three matchup.
Ovechkin was greeted with chants of “CAN YOU HEAR US?” The chant echoed throughout game three. From the opening faceoff, fans gave the Capitals the ultimate distraction, and fueled the adrenaline of the hometown Islanders. A second period deflection by Kyle Okposo gave the Islanders the lead, igniting the crowd even more. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk finished the second period with a game-changing diving stop on Ovechkin and headed to the locker room to the sound of a loud “John-ny Boy-chuk!” chant.
Nicklas Backstrom ripped the hearts out of many of the 16,170 fans when he went top shelf and found the back of the net with just 6:06 to play. Was this the beginning of another late-game Isles collapse? I’m sure that two weeks ago, many Islanders fans would have anticipated that. But this day was different. After the goal, another thunderous “Let’s go Islanders” chant broke out and the crowd stayed in it. The fans wouldn’t go unheard, and refused to go home unhappy. Regulation ended and fans buckled up for the long overtime period…or at least that’s what they thought.
Fifteen seconds. That’s all it took. Nick Leddy fired the puck, Nikolay Kulemin deflected it on net, and Islanders captain John Tavares picked up the rebound and sliced the puck just over the pad of goaltender Braden Holtby, sending Islanders country into a mass frenzy. The Capitals left the ice to a resounding “YES! YES! YES!” chant, and were now down two games to one, to a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in 20 years.
The game also signaled that more hockey is to be played at the Coliseum, as the Islanders are guaranteed to play at least two more games in the Barn, with more on the way if they can close out Washington twice more and advance to the next round.
This season, the Islanders have honored their past, bringing back legends from the cup years, and honoring them individually. Last weekend, the Islanders shocked many when they did not bring back all of them for the last regular season game, but opted for “decades night” a week earlier, bringing back two players from each decade. No offense to the players honored, but people who paid big money for tickets didn’t come to see Eric Cairns, Steve Webb and Shawn Bates. They came to see Nystrom, Bossy, Gillies, Potvin, Smith, Trottier, Bourne, Resch, Lafontaine, Westfall, Harris, Morrow, Tonelli, Goring, Sutter, Turgeon, Volek, Palffy, Berard, and Jonsson all in one room on the final night of the season. They came to see the guys who turned the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into Fort Neverlose and into the Barn, and many were left in disappointment. But we move on. The only truly fitting ending to the coliseum now would be John Tavares skating to center ice, shaking commissioner Gary Bettman’s hand, and lifting that 35-pound trophy sky high. That would honor the past, and what the building has meant to all Islanders fans. It’s place where many memories were made, and a place where many have spent most of their childhoods. It’s Home.
Game four is set for 7 pm on Tuesday night.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Mike Basile
The Islanders are off to a hot start this season. They’re in first place in the Metropolitan Division headed into the all star break. Here’s my mid-season grades for the team.
John Tavares (21 G, 24 A, 45 pts)- The captain has been on and off all season, but when you need a goal he is always there for you, he is second in the NHL with 5 game winning goals. He is starting to heat up again with 6 points in his last three games. One big concern for me is he takes some bad penalties. Your captain can not be doing that. Grade: B+
Kyle Okposo (14 G, 30 A, 44 points)- Okposo is also coming on of late he has 5 goals and 7 points in his last three games. He is starting to find his game again and that chemistry we all know he has with John Tavares. With these two heating up this team gets even more dangerous. Grade: B+
Ryan Strome ( 8 G, 25 A, 33 points)- When Ryan Strome is on the ice, good things happen, and his +16 shows that. It seems like whatever line he moves to has a ton of success. His on ice vision is great and it doesn’t hurt that he has a wicked shot as well. Grade: A-
Brock Nelson (15 G, 15 A, 30 points)- Brock Nelson makes a living in front of the net, and it shows on the powerplay as he has 9 of his 15 goals when on a man advantage. He is very strong on the puck and is still maturing. He can very quickly turn in to one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. Grade: B+
Frans Nielsen (9 G, 16 A, 25 points)- Frans Nielsen has one of the toughest jobs of all players, as almost every shift you will see him out against the other team’s top players. He is very skilled defensively and his 25 points are really helping the secondary scoring for this team. Grade: B
Josh Bailey (8 G, 13 A, 21 points)- Bailey looks to be a fit on that top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. He has 6 points in his last three games and his 21 points this season came in only 34 appearances. It seems like Josh Bailey is finding himself. Grade: B
Nikolay Kulemin (11 G, 9 A, 20 points)- Kulemin has been a great addition to the New York Islanders team. He is great on the penalty kill and has three shorthanded goals. Very good third line player who is also heating up to add to the secondary scoring. Grade: B
Anders Lee (13 G, 5 A, 18 points)- Anders is a player you love to have on your team, he is gritty, works hard and loves to score those dirty goals in front of the net. He also has five game winning goals this season which is 2nd in the NHL. Grade: B+
Mikhail Grabovski (6 G, 8 A, 14 points)- Grabovski has been one of the biggest disappointments on the team this season. Failing to hit the net on good scoring opportunities and making bad decisions with the puck leaves him with only 14 points. He will need to step up if he wants to stay in the lineup. Grade: C-
Casey Cizikas (4 G, 6 A, 10 points)- Cizikas is quietly having a pretty good season. He isn’t a player who is going to go out and get points every night and even gets looked over on the 4th line because of Martin and Clutterbuck leading the league in hits. He does his job on the penalty kill and is one of the team’s best faceoff men. Grade: B-
Cal Clutterbuck (4 G, 5 A, 9 points)- Cal is second in the league in hits and according to Don Cherry is a part of the “best fourth line in NHL history.” I’d like to see him contribute more offensively because I feel like he has the skill to put up a 30 point season. Grade: C+
Matt Martin (6 G, 2 A, 8 points)- Martin leads the league in hits…… again. He is one of the best enforcers in the NHL and knows how to spark the team when they need some momentum. Grade: B-
Michael Grabner (4 G, 2 A, 6 points)- Grabner has six points in 12 games this season. He has come on pretty strong after missing most of the season with an injury. His best asset is his penalty kill, but with the speed he has, he is always dangerous. It would be unfair to grade him through only 12 games.
Johnny Boychuk (4 G, 18 A, 22 points)- Boychuk has been another great addition to the team. Johnny has one of the hardest shots in the league and is very dangerous on the power play. Did I mention he is also a +15? Grade: B+
Nick Leddy (7 G, 14 A, 21 points)- Boychuk’s defensive partner has also been a great add to the squad. With 7 goals this season he is a big help to the forwards. Him and Boychuk are a combined +25 this season, which is new for isles defensemen. Grade: B+
Thomas Hickey (2 G, 13 A, 15 points)- Thomas Hickey’s size is really starting to show. When him and Visnovsky are on the ice, they can’t win puck battles in the corner and allow the other team to works in their defensive zone. He is helping out offensively, but has to be stronger on the puck. Grade: C–
Lubomir Visnovsky (3 G, 8 A, 11 points)- Much like Hickey, his size also shows defensively. His 11 points in 29 games is good for a defensemen, but his first responsibility is defense and sometimes us fans question that. Grade: C
Travis Hamonic (3 G, 8 A, 11 points)- Hamonic goes up against top line forwards every night and is still an impressive +4. I would like for him to stay out of the box, but can’t complain much with his play. Grade: B
Calvin De Hann (1 G, 10 A, 11 points)- Calvin also pairs up with Hamonic to play against top tier forwards. This is a very tough task for the young d-man, but he holds his own and plays very steady defense. Grade: B-
Brian Strait (1 G 3 A 4 points)- The scapegoat of the islanders defense. Every time something goes wrong it is very easy for fans and the media to claim that it’s Strait’s fault. He is not great, but Capuano plays him way too much and that hurts him a lot. Grade: D+
Jaroslav Halak (24-9-0)- Jaro has a 2.41 goals against average and a 91.0% save percentage. Halak has been shaky in his past couple of games, but this break may be what the doctor ordered. He has been a rock in goal for the isles this season overall. His 4 shutouts are also very impressive. Grade: A-
Chad Johnson (6-5-0)- Johnson has a 3.38 goals against average and an 87.0% save percentage. Do I have to say anything? I understand he is the backup, but this is unacceptable. The team has lost faith in him and jaro cannot play every day. He needs to pick it up next start. Grade: F
By Jack Allen
The New York Islanders home since 1972 has been the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The upcoming 2014-15 campaign will be the 43rd and final year played there. Since the lockout, (2005) the Islanders have made the playoffs as an eighth seed twice. In 2007 on a dramatic 82nd game in New Jersey at Continental Airlines Arena, and in 2013 with a game tying goal in the final minute in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Hurricanes on a John Tavares goal. All the other years have been absolutely miserable for the passionate hockey fans on Long Island. Due to some offseason help in the net from Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, and some help on the forward lines with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, are they poised for a playoff run? Jaroslav Halak has had a very good career and has also had some postseason success in Montreal when he single-handedly lead them to a first round upset over the high flying Washington Capitals lead by Alexander Ovechkin. The next round he led them to a seven game upset over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The cinderella story ended in Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals. Otherwise, Mikhail Grabovski in the 2013-14 season registered only 13 goals, but only played in 58 games. Meanwhile, in 2010-11 with Toronto he played 81 games and had 29 goals, so we know what he is capable of. Nikolai Kulemin in 2013-14 played in 70 games and only registered 20 points, but in 2010-11 he had 30 goals on the same team, and the same line as Grabovski. They had tremendous chemistry together. Hopefully, the former line mates can reunite and lead the Islanders back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014-15.
The Islanders open the season against Metropolitan division foe Carolina in a home and home series. October 10th is opening night in Carolina, and October 11th will be the final opening night in Nassau Coliseum history. The Islanders final game is scheduled for April 11th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many of the fans will be extremely disappointed if that really is the end. With Isles General Manager Garth Snow going out this summer and picking up some free agents, it has opened up new expectations for this fall. The fans who bleed the orange blue are hungry for one more crack at it at the old barn! Let’s go Islanders!
Jack Allen is a writer for dabuzzza.com. He is a fan of the New York Mets, New York Islanders, New York Knicks, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners, Queens Park Rangers, and West Virginia Mountaineer football and basketball. His favorite athletes are David Wright, John Tavares, Geno Smith, Allen Iverson and Charlie Austin. He is a very passionate and determined fan. You can follow him on twitter @JackAllen99.
By Mike Basile
John Tavares- (29 GP, 11 G, 21 A, 32 Points, +/- -5) No question the best player on the team and keeps them in some games single handedly. Would like to see a few more big goals from the young kid, but can’t complain about Tavares. Grade: A-
Kyle Okposo– (29 GP, 8 G, 18 A, 26 Points, +/- -1) After a great playoffs last season, fans wondered how Okposo would play this season. No doubt he is a streaky player, but for the most part he has been good this season helping out the captain on the top line. Grade B+
Frans Nielsen– (29 GP, 10 G, 13 A, 23 Points, +/- – 5) Frans got off to a hot start and has cooled down of late overall his play has been above average for him this season. Playing with Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner has only hurt him. Grade B+
Josh Bailey (28 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 Points, +/- – 3) Josh Bailey has not scored a goal in over three weeks, and after starting the season off pretty well, many fans believed he was ready to break out. It seems the beginning of the season was a fluke and Josh Bailey has returned to being invisible on the ice. Grade C
Pierre Marc-Bouchard (27 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 Points, +/- -8) One of Garth’s off-season moves that did not pan out to what he wanted. With just 9 points in 27 games and a –8, he has not done much to help this struggling team. Grade C-
Thomas Vanek (13 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 points, +/- +3) Thomas Vanek and John Tavares are starting to develop some chemistry, but his lackluster defensive play frustrates many fans and that +3 will quickly drop if that continues. Grade B-
Michael Grabner (26 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 Points, +/- -5) Michael Grabner has not scored since opening night, and continues to frustrate fans, as he gets at least one opportunity to score every night. He is normally good on the PK to make up for that, but I cannot even give him that this season. Grade D
Brock Nelson (19 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 points, +/- -6) One of the most consistent players on the Islanders and all he gets is a healthy scratch. The young kid showed he could play with Tavares and works hard every night. Grade B +
Casey Cizikas (29 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 Points, +/- – 3) Casey is a great 4th line center, he works hard every night and gets rewarded with the occasional goal and has great ice vision. Grade B-
Cal Clutterbuck (23 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 Points, +/- -4) Another player who is doing his job this year. I would definitely like to see him more on the score sheet, but he throws the body around and wins many physical battles. Grade C
Peter Regin (28 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Points, +/- -4) Who is this guy? And why is he still on the team? He barely played in Ottawa for a reason. Grade D
Matt Martin (29 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 points, +/- -3) Matt Martin is an extremely smart hockey player and throws his body around for fun. He has taken some bad penalties this year that have surprised me and knowing that he is a smart player is unacceptable. Grade C+
Eric Boulton (6 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Points, +/- +3) Never thought I would say this, but Eric Boulton has been good in the games he has played this season. I love that he is a +3, which shows that good things happen when he is on the ice. It would be unfair for me to grade him on only 6 games though.
Colin McDonald (22 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Points, +/- -10) Colin is an upbeat player and a big fan favorite, but he is just not an NHL player. – 10 is a stat that tells me that when he is on the ice I have to be scared at all times. Grade D
Andrew MacDonald (29 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 11 Points, +/- – 6) Andrew Macdonald is not having the best year to be quite honest, but that is because Capuano is trying to make him things that he is not! He is not a quarterback on the power play, he is not a 1 or 2 defensemen and should not be playing 26 minutes a night. I may get some criticism for this, but MacDonald plays hard every night and is a big part of this team. Grade B
Travis Hamonic (29 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 points, +/- -6) Travis is also being too heavily relied on this season and the fatigue is showing. I believe Hamonic should be a + defensemen every season, but this year’s being overworked is hurting his game. Grade C+
Matt Donovan (22 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 points, +/- – 5) Matt Donovan has been exactly what I expected. Gets involved in the offensive rush and helps out offensively, but makes rookie mistakes on the defensive end all too often. Grade C
Thomas Hickey (29 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Points, +/- – 3) Gives up his body for the team game in and game out and works very very hard. The mistakes he makes show to be costly and has to cut down on those with the defense slacking big time. Grade C
Matt Carkner (23 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 Points, +/- – 7) All the hate on Matt Carkner from the fans is totally understandable. He is paid to play defense and constantly gets caught pinching when he has no offensive ability and is a – 7. Grade D
Radek Martinek (10 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 Points, +/- -1) Radek is doing exactly what the Islanders needed him to. He plays sound defensively when they need him to. Sure he makes some mistakes, but with the defense they have, he has showed some solid veteran play. Grade B-
Lubomir Visnovsky (8 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 points, +/- +3) It is no secret that this team is hurting without their best all-around defenseman. Their power play was ranked in the top 5 when they had Visnovsky and now without him it is in the bottom 10 of the league. I will grade him by saying COME BACK!
Aaron Ness (12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Points, +/- – 7) The young kid has come in and to be honest, has not done much for this team. He is just too small and every game gets bullied around in front of the net. Grade C-
Brian Strait (9 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Point, +/- – 2) With the defense playing like they are, I would love for Strait to come back just for some hope that maybe he can help us out.
Calvin De Haan (3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Points, +/- -1) Not much to say only playing 3 games so far this season, but overall, I do like what I see from the young man who has been injury plagued.
Evgeni Nabakov (14 GP, 5-5-3, 3.30 GAA, save % .892) Since the playoffs last season, Nabby has lost all trust from Islander fans and after a recent groin injury fans are not to optimistic about him coming back and being the Nabby that led this team to the playoffs. Grade D
Kevin Poulin (13 GP, 3-10-0, 3.24 GAA, save % .887) I can’t blame Kevin Poulin for having bad statistics with the defense they have, but he has let up some soft goals in big situations that make me question our goalie of the future. Grade C
Anders Nillson (4 GP, 0-1-2, 3.26 GAA, save % .883) Anders played very well against two of the best offenses in the NHL (Penguins and Capitals). I will try to be optimistic about the giant goaltender who I think has some talent.
Overall Team Grade (29 GP, 8-16-5, 21 points) After making the playoffs last season there were high expectations for this hockey club, but with some injuries and lack luster play, this team has found itself in the basement to begin this season. The only good sign is that they do have time to bounce back with an 82 game season this year! Grade C-
Mike Basile is a sophomore at York College Of Pennsylvania. He is a huge sports fan, and when it comes to hockey maybe considered a little obsessive. Giving insight on the Islanders and all things hockey. You can follow him on twitter at @mikeybasile1