Islanders Set For Games 3 And 4 Against Panthers At New Home, But Will It Bring The Crazy Like The 'Old Barn'?

By Peter Schwartz
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When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the list of memories at Nassau Coliseum is endless.

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Among the most notable: Bobby Nystrom’s overtime goal in 1980 that gave the Islanders the first of their four consecutive championships, the dramatic Game 5 comeback win over Pittsburgh two years later, and Ken Morrow’s series-clinching sudden death goal against the Rangers two years after that.

Why stop there?

There was Ray Ferraro’s OT heroics against Washington in 1993, Shawn Bates’ penalty shot against Toronto in 2002, and John Tavares’ game-winning goals in Game 4 against the Penguins in 2013 and in overtime of Game 3 against the Capitals a year ago.

The atmosphere at playoff games inside “The Barn” over the years was aided by the sparklers, Joe Duerr’s renditions of the national anthem, the greatness of organists Eddie Layton and Paul Cartier, the bunting that hung from wall between the 200 and 300 sections, the tailgate parties in the parking lot, and the “Let’s Go Islanders” honks from cars on the way out.

Oh yeah, one more thing. There was also that roar from the sellout crowds that ranged from 14,995 to 15,230 to 16,170. As the Islanders got better over the years, they kept adding seats and when the building was filled to the rafters, there wasn’t a louder arena once the postseason started.

After 43 years at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders relocated to Barclays Center in Brooklyn this season and there were some adjustments for both the team and the fans.

Islanders playoffs

A New York Islanders fan holds a sign during warm ups before Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 11, 2013 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The team holds its morning skate on Long Island, spends the day at home, commutes to the games and then returns home. For many fans, it took a little getting used to taking the train after so many years of driving to the Coliseum.

The reality is that Barclays Center is now the Islanders’ home, but while the building has all the modern amenities that a team and fans needs, it remains to be seen if it will ever feel the same as the Coliseum did. There have been some times this season when the building rocked and there have been times when, well, let’s face it … there were times that the building felt like a library.

On Sunday night, the decibel level at Barclays should reach a season high as the facility hosts its first Stanley Cup playoff game when the Islanders face the Panthers in Game 3. Depending on the result of Game 2 on Friday in Florida, the series could be tied or the Islanders could be in the driver’s seat on their way to their first series win since 1993.

There’s no question that the fans will be raucous, but just how will Barclays Center feel for a playoff game? Will it sound like the Coliseum did?

“Nothing will ever match Nassau,” said WFAN mid-day co-host and Islanders fan Evan Roberts. “But I do think Barclays will be very loud for the Isles in the playoffs.”

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Roberts is also a Nets fan and was on hand for their first home playoff game Barclays Center against the Chicago Bulls on April 20, 2013.  The Nets won 106-89 and the building was electric.

“Shockingly, the atmosphere was amazing,” Roberts said. “I think a few things helped it out. It was a Saturday night against a very popular team and the Nets dominated the game from the opening tip.”

I’m guessing there will be far less Panthers fans in the building on Sunday night than there were Bulls fans at that first Nets playoff game, so Islanders fans should have no trouble lifting the roof off. They’ve been waiting 23 years for a playoff series win so it’s fair to say they’ll be pumped up.

Islanders retired numbers

The New York Islanders banners honoring the retired jerseys of Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Bob Nystrom and Bill Smith at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On the ice, the Islanders hope to avoid a negative trend in their history and that is losing inaugural games.

The Islanders lost their first regular season home game at the Coliseum and their first regular season home game in Brooklyn.  The Islanders also lost their first postseason home game at the Coliseum, 8-3 to the Rangers in Game 2 on April 10, 1975.

Islanders fan Larry Peim of Hartsdale was at that game and will also be at this Sunday’s contest in Brooklyn.

“Nassau Coliseum was electric inside,” Peim said. “For this Sunday’s game, it should be a loud fan base, at least at the start.”

Barclays Center management hasn’t revealed any special events or surprises surrounding the Islanders’ first playoff games in Brooklyn. During the 2013 and 2015 postseasons, the Islanders had a pre game fanfest where fans enjoyed music and the chance to take a sledgehammer to a car with opposing team logos on it.

I’m sure there will be rally towels and some other playoff-related promotions, but there are two ways that the building will rock the way it’s supposed to: Islanders fans need to do what they do best and that’s make a whole lot of noise, and the team needs to use that home-ice advantage, play well, and make the crowd scream louder.

On the ice, the Islanders have taken well to their new home as they were 25-11-5 during the regular season. After a slow start with attendance, the crowds at Barclays Center have improved.  Now that the playoffs have started, it will be interesting to see what the atmosphere will be like on Sunday.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Panthers will find out very quickly that Islanders Country, including “Loudville,” has moved 30 miles west.

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