Islanders buoyed by raucous Coliseum, success in close games
The sounds of happy fans celebrating a victory still were being heard throughout NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum when Islanders coach Barry Trotz was asked what it will be like to return to Barclays Center after such a euphoric homecoming to the venerable barn.
“Well, it’s going to be quite different,” Trotz said with almost a resigned smile. “It’s going to be quieter, I know that. We’re going to have to be self-motivating. We have some really good teams coming up. It’s going to be a battle right through, so we’re getting used to the battle. It’s OK to be hard.”
The Islanders were off from practice Sunday after rallying from a two-goal second-period deficit for a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 13,917 at the Coliseum. It was their first regular-season game back at the building they called home from 1972-2015.
The Islanders have nine regular-season games remaining in Brooklyn, starting with the Jets on Tuesday night. The next game in Uniondale is Dec. 10 against the Penguins. The six home games in December are split evenly between the Islanders’ two home facilities.
The Islanders’ hoped-for playoff push will come at what should continue to be a raucous Coliseum. Their final regular-season game at Barclays Center will be Feb. 16. Starting Feb. 26, the Islanders will play their final 12 home games at the Coliseum.
The Islanders’ average attendance in their first 11 games at Barclays Center this season is 10,448.
Trotz’s bigger point was that, regardless of the arena, the Islanders are going be in plenty of close games like Saturday’s.
They are 5-1-3 in one-goal games this season, with two of the victories coming in overtime and one in a shootout. Two of their three one-goal losses were in a shootout.
Saturday’s win also improved the Islanders (13-9-3) to 10-2-0 in the Metropolitan Division.
“This was a character win,” Trotz said. “I like where we’re going. We don’t mind being in those close games.”
He added that when the Islanders would get “punched” in close games earlier in the season, “we used to crawl up and accept it. We don’t accept it anymore.”
Still, Trotz called the win just a “baby step.”
“Our group has learned to play hard every night, to play the right way,” he said. “They’re finding out that they can play that way. We can’t take any shortcuts.”
Trotz estimated that playing in an electric atmosphere like the one at the Coliseum is worth about 12 points in the standings.
“We played a hard game,” he said. “The harder it’s getting, the more they’re starting to like it.”