The Islanders continued to roll at home on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their victory completed a four-game homestand that began a stretch of nine of the team’s next ten games at Nassau Coliseum.
Due to COVID-19, home has not been where the fans are, but it has been where the wins are.
In their nine home games, the Islanders have a dominant point percentage of .889, averaging 3.40 goals per game and 1.90 goals against. This compared to a win percentage of .416, an average of 2.1 goals per game, and 2.6 goals against on the road. What might be most impressive is that on home ice, the Isles are ranked in the top three in both power play and penalty kill percentage. These stats have led to a 7-0-2 record and a +18 goal differential in regulation, with their only losses coming to the Penguins in overtime and a shootout.
This red-hot start at the Coliseum also includes three regulation victories over the Boston Bruins, something the club hasn’t done since 2006-07. The latest of these three victories was a resounding 7-2 victory which at the time handed the Bruins just their fourth regulation loss, three of which have come on Long Island.
J.G. Pageau is the shorthanded king! pic.twitter.com/vr0e4s5R4J— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 26, 2021
The Islanders play in New Jersey Tuesday before returning home for five more games. They have a chance to solidify their playoff positioning that cannot be overstated.
Currently, the Isles are third in the division, but their rivals all have games in hand. Continuing to fire on all cylinders for the upcoming home games can give the Isles a stronghold on a top-four spot in the division and insert a gap between themselves and the rest of the pack.
In the remaining home games of this stretch, the Coliseum will play host to the Buffalo Sabres three straight times followed by games against the Bruins and Devils. These opponents, paired with how dominant the team has been at home present a golden opportunity. The Isles hold a 7-1-0 record against these opponents and the Sabres and Devils currently sit at the bottom of the division.
Success at home is nothing new for the Islanders when they’re winning, and winning big. During the dynasty years in the early ’80s, Nassau Coliseum was often referred to as “Fort Neverlose”. Even dating back to the 2019-20 shortened season, the Islanders finished 20-9-6 between their two homes (Nassau Coliseum and the Barclays Center). They were able to secure 46 of an available 70 points at home last season.
For context had their road results mirrored this success, they would have had a near-identical record to the 2019-20 Metropolitan Division winners, the Washington Capitals.
And Fort Neverlose was Fort Neverlose once more. pic.twitter.com/gYIXoLfoTF— Drive4Five – Islanders (@Drive4Five_) December 1, 2020
Islanders fans will be cautious, as they remember starting last season 13-2-1 at home. In the end, the Islanders wound up going 6-7-5 at home the remainder of the way which, in a normal season, would’ve seen them tumble out of playoff positioning.
Building a strong home-ice advantage is important for all teams. With the team’s current strength at home and the upcoming return of fans, albeit in a limited capacity, the Isles have an opportunity to resurrect the nickname of “Fort Neverlose”.
“There’s something about the human spirit, the human emotion that you can’t replicate,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters last week. “It’s pure joy, it’s pure anger. It’s pure everything. It’s fellowship. It’s the event. It’s the buzz. There’s nothing that can replicate that.”
Between this season’s format and such a competitive division, each game is significant. Continued home dominance over the next five games and beyond could make the “Fort Neverlose” mantra a significant one once again.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryandunni