When it comes to the postseason on Long Island, it always brings about a special feel in the air. Hope springs eternal and the thought of another possible parade down Hempstead Turnpike for the first time since 1983 all begins to creep into the minds of Islander fans.
Then there’s the building. Something about the image of a packed Nassau Coliseum with 14,000 screaming Islander fans is enough to bring chills down the spine.
Those shivers will once again be on display tonight when the Isles host the Pittsburgh Penguins for a pivotal game three of their first-round playoff series tonight.
It will be the first time in over two years the Islanders have played a postseason game inside the old barn, the last time coming in game two of what became a four-game sweep of those same Penguins. It also marks the first time the Isles will play in front of half of their fans after having played last year’s playoffs in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles — both without any spectators — where they reached the Conference Finals. So, they have a lot of catching up to do.
To add to that, this will be the Coliseum’s last hurrah before the franchise takes itself down the road to their new home at UBS Arena next fall.
6,250 fans will be inside the building, but it might as well feel like there will be over 14,000 strong. And if you weren’t aware already: Isles fans know how to bring it in the postseason in terms of intensity and getting loud. Cal Clutterbuck knows.
“Obviously the Coliseum comes alive this time of year,” said the Isles’ longtime forward this morning.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) April 11, 2019
Forget the regular season where only 1,400 fans were allowed in the building due to state regulations. That’s preseason stuff and barely added anything in regards to atmosphere. Now it’s different. It’s the postseason where a building can help shift the momentum during games. Yes, the Coliseum faithful have been known to do that from time to time. The Penguins witnessed it firsthand in that series two years ago when Tom Kuhnhackl scored early in game one to blow the roof off, only for it to be ruled offside. But they were clearly rattled.
“It shouldn’t be a friendly place to come in and have fun for the opposition,” head coach Barry Trotz says.
The first two games in Pittsburgh were fun and it was nice to see a good amount of fans back. Frankly it didn’t sound all that loud on TV. That certainly won’t be the case when the Islanders take the ice tonight.
The Coliseum will be all charged up, hopefully for the first of many more bigger games to happen this summer. Every Islander in that locker room knows that.
Embracing the craziness that comes with that atmosphere is important, not just now but for possibly the rest of the series.
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_