There were times Friday night when the crowd at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum seemed to serve as the proverbial extra man – a large swell of support that all but willed the Islanders to their 2-0 series lead over the Penguins. The cheers were deafening, the chants reverberated nicely throughout the old – refurbished – barn, and every moment seemed as if it was a breath away from pandemonium.
It’s a little jarring to go from something like that to nothing – an experience the Islanders will have to weather as they get set to play Game 3 Sunday in Pittsburgh. But that’s quite all right, Barry Trotz seemed to say – the Islanders are ready to take it from here.
“It’ll be good for us on the road,” he said Saturday as the Isles prepared to take off for Pittsburgh for the next two games, a chance at a sweep. “I think we’re actually a lot calmer than when we’re at home. That’s the way I felt all year. We were a real good road team because of the fact that we weren’t trying to put on a show. We were just doing our thing, and we’ve had some of our best games all year on the road.”
The Islanders were 24-14-3 on the road, compared to 24-13-4 in games at Barclays Center and the Coliseum. Part of that parity has to do with discipline, something that they’ve had to show plenty of during this already chippy series. The other part, Casey Cizikas said, was the sense of camaraderie that the team has developed. It’s no secret that, on paper, this team has very much over-performed, and that's mostly thanks to the way they’ve jelled under Trotz’s regime.
“You know it’s fun going into opposing buildings and hearing their crowd getting ready for the game,” Cizikas said. “On the road you’re with the guys all the time, you’re hanging out, you’re having dinner together. It’s just a different atmosphere, and I think that’s something we’ve done well this year, in jelling and getting ready for games on the road, and we’re going to continue to try and do that.”
Regardless, Sunday should prove to be a hostile environment. PPG Paints Arena gets loud – Trotz discovered that firsthand during the many postseason games he’s coached there, and called it “a great atmosphere” and a “great hockey city." And the Penguins will feel more comfortable at home, especially since they weren’t too keen on the Coliseum ice. “I hope it’s better ice at home,” Evgeni Malkin said after Game 2. “The puck was jumping all the time.”
But Trotz said he sees that coming, and he’s OK with it. He noticed that when he was putting together videos for training camp, some of the best games happened on the road. “I could probably name four or five off the top of my head, real easy,” he said.
So yes, the Penguins will have “a push every game just as we’ve had a push,” he said. “The playoffs are about sustaining those storms or weathering those storms when they come. They’re going to come. It’s about weathering them and making sure you’re reacting on the right side and making sure you get a save here and there, a big play and you go forward.”