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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game



The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.

New York Islanders

WATCH: Mathew Barzal Posterizes the Buffalo Sabres During Tying Goal



Mathew Barzal

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Mathew Barzal showed why he is the New York Islanders star player on Saturday afternoon.

The 23-year-old had the goal of the year to tie the game at one at 3:51 of the second period. The Buffalo Sabres couldn’t hold the puck in the Isles end and Barzal was able to chase down the loose puck into the Buffalo Sabers end.

Mathew Barzal masterfully outmaneuvered Rasmus Ristolainen to get to the front of the net, where Barzal then showed off his puckhandling skills to beat Buffalo netminder Carter Hutton and tie the game. The goal was Barzal’s ninth of the season and he picked up his team-leading 21st point of the year.

The goal helped kick off a four-goal second period for the Islanders. They led Buffalo 4-1 when the second period had come to a close.

The Islanders forward has lived up to his end of the bargain this season after signing a three-year, $21 million contract extension in January. Barzal has become part of a youth movement on Long Island, with the success of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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New York Islanders

Sorokin Provides Another Strong Performance vs. Sabres



Ilya Sorokin
Photo credit: New York Islanders

New York Islanders rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin came into the game on Thursday having posted back-to-back shutouts his last two times out. Despite seeing that shutout streak come to an end last night after 143:08 minutes, the rookie netminder put together another strong performance in the 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

PICKUP SIX: Islanders Extend Point Streak to Six Games in Win Over Buffalo

Sorokin only faced 18 shots on the night, which included six in the first, five in the second and seven in the third. He saw five high-danger chances throughout the contest, with two of them entering the back of the net.

Sorokin is 3-2-1 this season, with a .909 SV % and a 2.16 GAA. But over his last three starts, the 25-year old netminder has posted a 3-0-0 record, with a .967 SV% and a GAA of 0.67.

The Sabres, who had been shutout over their last two games, were looking to shoot when applicable (which was not often). The majority of the Sabres’ six shots in the opening frame came from inside the right circle, but Sorokin played his angles to perfection.

The one downside to shots from that angle is that rebounds could become a problem depending on the speed at which they leave the stick. But Sorokin did a nice job controlling the rebounds and the defense helped him by clearing the front of the net.

However, in the second period, one of those rebounds saw a puck enter the net, which snapped his shutout streak. Taylor Hall scored his second of the season, but it was the hard shot off Cody Eakin’s stick from inside the left circle that made the play.

Sorokin was at the top of his paint, a little off to his right. But a hard shot like that far pad will always create a rebound such as that. When a goaltender is aggressive, there is really no other place for that puck can go. Adam Pelech needed to do a better job at picking up Hall there.

Earlier in the frame, with a little over 14 minutes to play in the second period, Sorokin made a fantastic blocker save on Rasmus Ristolainen to keep the Islanders slim one-goal lead intact. He was towards the top of his crease and tracked the puck well as he stretched out just enough of it with the blocker.

The Sabres picked up their second goal of the game at 11:15 of the third period. With the extra man due to a delayed penalty, the Buffalo Sabres were able to set up in the Islanders’ zone. From inside the left circle, Jack Eichel took a hard wrist shot which Sorokin stopped with his shoulder. But the rebound landed to his left, where defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen stuffed it in.

Sorokin had to fight through a Pulock screen on the initial shot. I would have liked to see him come out a little farther than he was, but I do not believe he was truly ready for Eichel to release the puck there, especially that quickly. One of the more challenging saves to control is off the shoulder as is it is more of a stun shot, catching the goalie by surprise. 

What we saw from Sorokin is what we have seen over his recent starts. The growth we have seen from him cutting off angles has been phenomenal. He did not overplay any Buffalo shots on Thursday and the two rebound goals were unfortunate, but to me, not worrisome at all.

The more important part was that none of the sharp-angle shots went directly into the net. 

We are also seeing what happens when Sorokin is given a lead. This was now three games in a row in which the Islanders scored first for him and he has played well enough to preserve those leads. 

Over his last three games, Sorokin has faced a combined total of 58 shots, which averages out to 19.33 shots per game. The Islanders have done a great job protecting him more recently, which has allowed him to focus on his game. 

Head coach Barry Trotz stated that down the stretch, Sorokin would take some of the load off of starter Semyon Varlamov. Giving Sorokin the start on Thursday should be a major confidence booster, and despite it coming against the worst five-on-five offense in the entire National Hockey League, he got the job done.

Sorokin has undoubtedly had Buffalo’s number this season, as he now has a 2-0 record with a 1.00 GAA with a .947 SV%. With two more games against the Sabres this weekend, I would bet the rookie gets seventh NHL start Sunday.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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New York Islanders

Islanders Plus/Minus: New York Cruises to Easy Win Over Sabres



Islanders celebrate goal

Thursday’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres was the perfect way for the New York Islanders to continue their hot stretch.

And they did not disappoint.

Led by two goals by Matt Martin, the Islanders rolled to a 5-2 win at Nassau Coliseum to extend their point streak to six games. And at the beginning of month three of the NHL season, the Islanders still do not have a regulation loss at home.

There was plenty of things to like — and a few on things on the negative side — so let’s take a look a little closer at some of those components from Thursday’s game.


Martin acts like a sniper

Aside from his five-goal run during the 2020 postseason, Martin has not exactly been a noted scorer in his career. He’s on the energy line and is better known for finishing checks than finishing goals. In fact, he hadn’t registered a multi-goal game since March 25, 2014.

Almost seven years later, Martin put up another multi-goal game. He scored at the end of the first and capped off the scoring in the third. But it was the first one that was turning heads on social media.

Shooting from underneath the red line, Martin found the smallest of spaces to put the puck in between Jonas Johansson’s mask and shoulder for a goal. With the effort, Martin now has four goals on the season, just one short of his total from last regular season.

“Initially I was trying to find [Casey Cizikas] and [Cal Clutterbuck] around the net,” Martin said of the first goal. “And they weren’t open, everyone gravitated to them. I took a look at the goalie and he was down and just tried to put it there. Luckily I was able to hit my spot and it went in.”

Of note, Martin led the Islanders in Corsi For at 5-on-5 Thursday at 75 percent. Not too shabby.

Dobson continues to roll

As he’s found his footing, Noah Dobson has been a key contributor at both blue lines.  He had the scoring touch Thursday, notching his second of the season. Acting as a trailer on the rush with Jordan Eberle, Dobson used a quick release to open the scoring.

He now has nine points, second most among the Islanders defensive corps behind Nick Leddy. In the win he also logged 18:20 of ice time, the first time he’s skated that much in one game since Jan. 30.

Possession, possession and more possession 

From start to finish, the Islanders dominated Buffalo, which makes sense. Buffalo is the worst team in the league and didn’t put much of a fight up the first two times these teams played.

Thursday’s game was more of the same and the Islanders never took their foot off the gas pedal, other than maybe for a small stretch in the second period.

Islanders and Sabres heat map

The Islanders had 13 high danger chances and yielded only three while retaining a 58.33 percent Corsi For overall. For the game, they had a 70.45 expected goals percentage, almost unheard of for a team that generally plays close games. There are only so many superlatives you can give the Islanders for this effort. But they were a freight train going and the Sabres couldn’t move out of the way.

“When I looked at the chances after the first period, [Buffalo] had some really good looks,” Barry Trotz said. “I thought they had as many as we did but they failed on them and we were able to capitalize on ours.”


Sorkin’s shutout streak is over

Well, all good things must come to an end, and so did Ilya Sorokin’s shutout streak. The second-period strike from Taylor Hall was the first goal the rookie netminder had allowed in three games. It was a big rebound off the initial shot and Hall had an open net to cash in on just his second goal with Buffalo.

Sorokin does have his place in Islanders history, now holding the team’s third longest shutout streak by a rookie goalie.

It was an overall quiet night in net for Sorokin, who made 16 saves on 18 shots. For the year he has a .909 save percentage.

Power play goes scoreless 

Man-advantage chances abound, the Islanders did not pot one on the power play Thursday. That’s back-to-back games without a goal on special teams after a month of February where they dominated in such situations.

Thursday they went 0-for-3 and are now 12th in the league at a 23.4 percent success clip on the power play.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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