Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: the New York Islanders will relocate to a new home during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
No, unlike last year, the Islanders didn’t have to trek from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center. They geared up for a day of travel Sunday to head west from the Toronto bubble to Edmonton.
With Game 1 one of the Eastern Conference Final slated for Monday night at Rogers Place, that doesn’t give New York much time to transition to its new surroundings and prepare for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So for the first time in six weeks, the Islanders will have a new home and play their games on a different sheet of ice in quick succession.
“When we started this we said let’s play one series at a time and let’s see if we can get to Edmonton and we’ll worry about things when we get to Edmonton,” head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday. “I think it’ll be beneficial.”
Aside from a change from the Royal York hotel to Hotel X in late August, life for the Islanders has mostly been static since they arrived in the Toronto bubble. They spent a little over a month in Toronto and played — and won — three different playoff series in Scotiabank Arena.
The remaining teams have been bubbled up since the start of the playoffs, meaning the players and staffs have spent time away from family and close ones. So even without constant travel, these Stanley Cup Playoffs have presented a much different set of challenges and circumstances. Trotz said these last few weeks allowed him to reflect and gave him a “new appreciation” for hockey.
“It is a little bit of a grind being in the bubble, just more mentally,” Trotz said. “But we’ve got really good support of the families, and thank God for Zoom and FaceTime and the technology these days because it makes it a lot easier.”
In this unique 2020 playoffs, the Islanders have not had to travel back and forth between their home and an opposing city. That’ll be their first extended travel since entering the Toronto bubble. It’ll also be New York’s first time back in western Canada since its road trip was cut short in mid-March due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) September 6, 2020
So will a change of venues be a welcome change of pace for the Islanders?
“I think so, I think we felt that way a little bit when we changed hotels in the second round,” Anders Lee told reporters. “Been able to switch things up a little bit. But I think Edmonton, for all of us, was a huge goal of ours on our way to doing what we want to do. It’s just the next step in that and that change of scenery will freshen things up a little bit.”
The Toronto bubble treated Josh Bailey kindly as he notched 17 points over 16 games to match his playoff total coming into the tournament. His hot hand continued for the New York Islanders in a dominating Game 7 when he picked up two points in the series clincher against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Bailey added that the team has had Edmonton in its sights for a while, but New York has not looked too far down the road.
“I think like Anders said, you’re just taking it day by day,” Bailey said. “When you look at what we had in front of us here, Edmonton was the goal. To this point we’ve done what we’ve wanted. And I think it’s only going to get harder from here.
“Moving on to Edmonton, it’s going to be a different situation.”