Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Justin Bieber is a Maple Leafs fan, so forgive the guy if he doesn’t plan his life around the Stanley Cup playoffs. But some of the rest of us do, including this spring as the Islanders and their fans make a rare journey into May.
Alas, the Biebs got dibs on Barclays Center for Wednesday and Thursday, forcing the Isles and Lightning to wait an extra day to play for the third time in a row in their second-round series.
This is not the place to delve into the contractual nuances of concerts tours, an area outside my jurisdiction. But it is all a bit mysterious.
Three years ago Wednesday a close family member missed a Rihanna concert on a milestone birthday when the Nets and Bulls went to a Game 7, pushing Rihanna from Saturday to Tuesday.
Yet Bieber — who has gigs in Philadelphia Saturday and Sunday — will play on as Lightning players try to score “Hamilton” tickets while killing time in Gotham and the Islanders ponder what might have been in Game 3.
The big question, naturally, is whether this will help them forgive (themselves, the refs) and forget after a maddening 5-4 loss in overtime in a game in which they played pretty darn well, actually.
Your thoughts, John Tavares?
“I feel like so far the days off don’t really carry momentum as well,” he said in the losing dressing room Tuesday. “So, get some rest, regroup, come out hard on Friday and get a ‘W.’ ”
Not much else to do, of course. So why not spin the latest long break as a positive?
The players were off Wednesday, but coach Jack Capuano got on the phone with reporters and while admitting the loss was “demoralizing, you could say, in a way,” he also said his team has “a short memory.”
We shall see. Players usually are more resilient psychologically than fans and journalists give them credit for, so the Islanders likely would have pulled themselves together with or without the extra day to think.
But it says here this last Bonus Chillax Day on the series calendar should help when the team returns to the practice rink in Syosset Thursday morning and to Brooklyn Friday night.
If the series were 3-1, that would be one thing. But the Islanders are down only 2-1 and demonstrated Tuesday, especially in an excellent first period, that they can stick with the Bolts.
Capuano called it “probably one of the best games we’ve played all year” and said, “That was Islander hockey. We played to our identity.”
By that he meant the good parts of the game, not the parts where the Islanders allowed crushing goals in the final minutes of both the first and third periods.
Tavares blamed himself in large part for the lapse that allowed Nikita Kucherov’s tying goal with 38 seconds left.
“We just gave them a little too much room in the middle of the ice,” he said. “A lot of that’s on me as the weak-side forward. I have to just slide in there. I tried to get my stick in there and I just hit his skates. No excuse for it. Have to close him off.”
It would have made for much better theater to see what happens next on Thursday instead of Friday in keeping with the NHL’s preferred every-other-day rhythm.
Instead this series has followed a dragged-out, NBA-esque script, which is profoundly annoying. But hey, at least New York is talking Islanders for once.
Mike Francesa got the Internet stirred up on Tuesday by colorfully ripping the organization — and its former goalie, Rick DiPietro, now of 98.7 ESPN Radio — but that beats the heck out of being ignored.
So, on with the show. And if any Islanders decide to take in one of the Biebs’ concerts in Brooklyn, perhaps they will find some inspiration in the words of a long-suffering Leafs fan.
Like these, from his 2010 song “Never Say Never”:
Whenever you knock me down
I will not stay on the ground
Pick it up, pick it up
Pick it up, pick it up
Up, up, up, up, up, and never say never