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Taub: Islanders would have ultimate home-ice advantage even with a half-filled Coliseum

The playoffs will be here soon for the Islanders. They should have their spot locked up within the next few weeks. The question that remains is whether they will have home-ice advantage come when the postseason gets underway next month.

Speaking of home-ice — and having a sizable advantage — there’s a new development on that front. Earlier this afternoon, Nassau County Executive and die-hard Islander fan Laura Curran tweeted out that she was sending a letter to New York State requesting capacity at Nassau Coliseum be extended to 50% by May 7.

“As you know, the Islanders are ingrained in the fabric of Long Island,” Curran said at the end of her letter. “With this being the last season at the Coliseum before the big move to Belmont, my hope is that by increasing capacity to 50 percent, we can give more Isles fans the opportunity to safely ‘Rock the Barn’ one last time.”

The Islanders’ last two home games are both squeezed in that time frame, Thursday the 6th against New Jersey and Saturday the 8th against the Rangers, which marks the last regular season home game in the history of the Coliseum. The postseason would begin sometime the following week. If Islanders fans had it their way, the State would allow full capacity. That’s unrealistic as there are still people who need to get vaccinated and COVID-19 cases are still happening despite a large decrease in them over the past month.

But if New York State were to allow the Isles to play in front of a half-filled barn as opposed to allowing in between 1,400 to 2,800 fans, it would provide a larger advantage on a number of fronts.

Depending on whom the Isles first-round opponent would be — Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston or the Rangers — they would have more fans in the building to actually create an atmosphere. Outside of the Rangers until they’re given the green light to bring more fans into MSG, all the other teams are still playing at just 10% capacity. It looks as if that will continue by the time the playoffs are set to start.

The Isles have also made the Coliseum a fortress this season, sporting a 17-2-2 record, the best in the league. They’ve accomplished that feat without fans up until they were allowed back last month, and it’s only continued. Getting even 50% back for what many presume will be a run at a Stanley Cup, would be a big boost. The team and its fans missed out on the opportunity of celebrating the ride to the Eastern Conference Final last summer with the games being played in Toronto and Edmonton.

“We miss the fans,” Mathew Barzal said earlier in the year before fans were allowed back. “Me, especially, I miss the fans out there. They bring a certain type of energy when you’re out there. It’s just different having people in the building.”

At half-capacity even in the playoffs, the Coliseum might take on the look of a regular season game from ten years ago. In regards to fan engagement and how loud it can get inside the building — and we all know how the sound reverberates because of the low ceiling — it would be the complete opposite.

If approved, the Islanders would be able to hone something they haven’t felt since game two against the Penguins two years ago — a true home-ice advantage.

There’s a lot of time between now and May 7th The Islanders will play four more home games before then. But as it stands now, the thought of a 50% filled barn is now on the table.

That’s big and come playoff time could look even larger.

 

 

Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_

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