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New York Islanders

Playoff Gameday: Let the Back-to-Backs begin for Islanders and Flyers

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New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers

The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers begin their first of two potential back-to-back sets of games today during their Second Round series. Game 2 will take place this afternoon at 3 p.m. and Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.

This will be the second time in the playoffs that the Islanders have had to play to back-to-back games in a series. It occurred in the Qualifying Round against the Florida Panthers, but the Islanders had full days off in between games against the Washington Capitals in the First Round.

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For what it’s worth, during the regular season the Islanders were 5-3-0 in the front end of back-to-backs and 6-1-1 in the back end.

“If anything, a lot of times you feel better on the back-to-back,” Jordan Eberle said. “The biggest thing is just that we get a day to recover. Obviously, we know we have two games, but you’ve got to worry about one at a time. We’ll worry about the third game once it comes.”

As for this afternoon, the New York Islanders have another thing going for them. They have found their stride in afternoon games inside the bubble. The Islanders are 6-1 this postseason in games that start before 5 p.m., according to Eric Hornick.

That is good because Barry Trotz will be looking for an even better effort out his guys in Game 2. The Islanders bench boss took some issue with how the Islanders played in Game 1 outside of the first period.

“I didn’t care for our game,” Trotz said of Monday’s game. “I liked our first period. After that, we were average. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Islanders Projected Lines

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey

Ross Johnston — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Leo Komarov

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Defense

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy — Andy Greene

Goalies

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Philadelphia Flyers Projected Lines

Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Jakub Voracek

Joel Farabee — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny

Scott Laughton — Derek Grant — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Michael Raffl — Nate Thompson — Tyler Pitlick

Defense

Ivan Provorov — Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim — Philippe Myers

Shayne Gostisbehere — Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart

Brian Elliott

Game Notes

The Flyers are 39-33 all-time in playoff Game 2’s and 21-18 after losing the opening game of. series. … Philadelphia has not dropped consecutive games since Jan. 4-7. … The Flyers are 3-15 all-time when trailing a series 2-0. … The Islanders set a new franchise record by limiting an opponent to fewer than 30 shots for the 10th consecutive game. … Semyon Varlamov is roughly 40 seconds shy of surpassing Billy Smith for the longest shutout streak in the playoffs in franchise history.

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New York Islanders

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

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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.

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New York Islanders

Barzal Dazzles, Drives Isles in Win Over New Jersey | NYHN+

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Mathew Barzal

If there were any concerns about Mathew Barzal’s game because of his late arrival to training camp, the 23-year-old has quickly dispelled them with his dominant play on Thursday night.

It was Barzal’s three points (1g, 2a) along with linemate Jordan Eberle’s two goals that pushed the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.

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New York Islanders

AIR JORDAN! Eberle Scores Twice as Islanders Down Devils

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Jordan Eberle scores for the New York Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Jordan Eberle scored his first two goals of the year as the New York Islanders defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-1 at the Nassau Coliseum.

The two-goal effort from Eberle came on a night that the Islanders’ top-six forwards contributed to all four of the team’s goals. Eberle, Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson combined for six points.

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“You want to get off to a good start,” Eberle said. “You put the puck in once and you start to feel it especially when you get into game three, four, five. You want to contribute. My linemates, we created a few chances and we had some good looks the past few games. We hit a few posts and we just haven’t really capitalized. It’s nice that we finished a few off today.”

Eberle’s two-goal night was his first the Aug. 4 against the Florida Panthers during the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Barzal had his first three-point performance (one goal, two assists) since March 5 against Ottawa and Nelson’s third-period goal was his second of the season.

Thursday’s win over New Jersey played out in a similar fashion to the New York Islanders season-opening win over the New York Rangers. They dominated the first period, outshooting New Jersey 15-6, and scoring twice before having to hold off a push from the Garden State visitors in the second.

“The first period was more of our identity,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “New Jersey has some really good speed. … I thought we just played the right way. We jumped on them. They’ve been a quick start team. I thought that was key and then getting that late goal was good. I thought we had enough chances, enough zone time that we should have been getting that second goal.”

Semyon Varlamov helped fend off the second-period surge by New Jersey, but had his shutout streak snapped at 142:10 after Nathan Bastian scored from the high slot. Varlamov’s shutout streak from the start of the season was the eighth longest in NHL history.

Varlamov’s job was made easier by the Islanders’ strong power play on Thursday, which converted on two of its three chances against New Jersey. Both came in the third period and allowed the Islanders to fortify their lead.

“I think last two years he’s been pretty consistent the whole way through,” Barzal said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a stretch where he hasn’t played well. To start the season, it’s really nice to see him come back and just kind of dominate in net. He just looks calm and feels real secure with him in between the pipes.”

Already up 2-1, Eberle cashed in quick on an early third-period power play for the Islanders. A shot by Noah Dobson missed the net and bounced right to Eberle, who was able to beat Scott Wedgewood from a tough angle.

Nelson scored the Islanders’ second power-play goal of the night at 5:16 of the third. He was able to deflect a Nick Leddy shot past  Wedgewood to give the Isles a three-goal lead.

Josh Bailey Plays Against New Jersey After Coming Off COVID Protocol List

The New York Islanders jumped to an early lead less than five minutes into the game. Barzal took the puck from his own end and into the offensive zone, where he fired a blistering shot into the corner of the net to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

After controlling the play and keeping the Puck in New Jersey’s end for most of the first period, the Islanders found paydirt again with 20.9 seconds left in the first. Barzal did a good job to force a New Jersey turnover in the Islanders end and then quickly move the puck up to Anders Lee.

The Islanders captain muscled the puck past PK Subban to Eberle, who put the backhander past Scott Wedgewood.

New Jersey cut the Islanders lead to one in the second period. A shot by Bastian from the high slot got by Varlamov for New Jersey’s only goal.

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