Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Home sweet home? In Brooklyn?
So it would appear for the Islanders, who thumped the Red Wings, 4-1, on Monday to improve to 4-0 at Barclays Center in February — with 22 goals scored in those four games.
To be clear, we are talking only about hockey here, not train connections or ticket prices or obstructed views, so while comments, emails, cards and letters on those subjects always are welcome, they are not the point today.
The point is, for all of the challenges and displacement involved — for both fans and the Islanders themselves — this Brooklyn thing seems to be clicking on the ice, as the Isles are 19-8-3 at home.
But they had better keep it up, because after hosting the first-place Capitals on Thursday, they have a daunting 12 road games in their next 14. (Blame the circus and college basketball. Hey, it’s a busy building in a bustling borough!)
After the Capitals, the Islanders have only 10 home games left.
The good news is that if they manage to survive the next four weeks still in the dense muck of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the finishing stretch is far more favorable.
Six of their last eight games are at home, and one of those is at Madison Square Garden.
Anyway, back to Brooklyn. The growing pains will continue — perhaps forever, for many of their Long Island-based fans who are unwilling to make the trip — but Monday’s holiday matinee sellout was another hopeful sign.
The players gave the family-friendly crowd a show with a solid performance against a team the Islanders had lost to twice in the previous three weeks, 4-2 and 5-1.
“We have been looking pretty good at home,” said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who had two assists. “I think we’re just trying to simplify our game when we’re at home. We should do that more on the road and we would get the same outcome more times than not.”
Said center Brock Nelson, who had a goal and an assist: “I think we’ve had some good stretches, but it’s nice to kind of get on a roll here at home. You have to take advantage of all these points.”
Well, yes, you could say that. After a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday, followed by the Devils’ victory over the Kings on Sunday, the Islanders fell to mere wild-card playoff status.
Monday’s victory vaulted them back into the top three in the Metropolitan Division — for now. This likely will go on for the next two months, which is fun for fans and less fun for coaches. “We’re what, 11 games over .500?” coach Jack Capuano said. “Every night’s a battle in this division to try to make a playoff push.”
Failing to make the playoffs would be a massive letdown after the way the team concluded its Nassau Coliseum era last season, combined with the hoopla over the move to Brooklyn and with new ownership set to take over this summer.
It seems unlikely, but then again, there is that long March march across North America ahead.
Between Friday and a month from Friday, their 12 road games will take them to seven states, four Canadian provinces and four time zones. And one of their home games in that stretch is against the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers.
So winning at home is a must. Fortunately for the Islanders, they seem to be getting the hang of that.