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 Jack Allen
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers made a 3 way trade earlier this month. Minnesota received Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and $6.3 Million. The 76ers received a 1st round pick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Alexey Shved. And of course, Cleveland landed Kevin Love. Kevin Love for the last six years has been the face of the T-Wolves franchise, but now joins up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in what the players are calling, “The Land.” Kevin Love has never played in a playoff game in his career and neither has Kyrie Irving. I can honestly say that I believe in LeBron and the Cavs starting five through the regular season to finish atop the Eastern Conference. When it comes to playoff time, will Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers be ready? Due to lack of experience Im seeing a first round exit to possibly the Hawks, Knicks or the Nets. Each of those teams have playoff experience and aren’t projected to place at the top of the conference, but can compete with top teams.
As for the 76ers, I don’t think they are close to being a top team yet, and they’ll probably finish in the cellar similar to last season. They have a very bright future with young blue chip prospects such as Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, and their latest 1st rounder, Joel Embiid. The Sixers will probably have the opportunity to draft another top prospect and only then will they be ready for a possible playoff-birth in a year from now. Looking at this season though, it’s going to be a rough time for Sixers fans as they watch their team struggle through their schedule in a deep rebuild.
Finally, the T-Wolves. With a completely new look, I already think that they’ll contend to reach the playoffs. It would mark the first time since the 2003-04 season that the Timberwolves were in the playoffs, when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They likely should make the playoffs this season, led by the young guns of Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, and Zach LaVine, in addition to Ricky Rubio. With a motivated and passionate fan base, the team is primed for a return to playing basketball in late April into May. I’m predicting that Andrew Wiggins will win rookie of the year and will be the leader of the team. Not once had they made it to the playoffs with Love, but with the core that they have now, the Timberwolves will be good for a long time in the NBA. They should start off the next few years in the middle of the pack with early playoff exits, but two seasons down the road they’ll be definite title contenders if they can keep their core players. I’d say that the Timberwolves were the real winners of this trade but it should be fun to see how it plays out!
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.