Connect with us

NHL Playoffs

Simpson In the Arena: Bubble Life Getting Best of Some, Brings Out Best in Others



Alex Ovechkin

TORONTO — After Game 4 on Monday night, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, after his team blew a 2-0 third period lead and lost 4-to-3 to the Boston Bruins, said the following in reference to digging out of a 3-1 series deficit while playing in the bubble.

“It makes it harder to dig yourself out of the hole.”

There is no question that bubble life has an impact on playoff performance. Some level of the same phenomenon that led Bruins number-one goaltender Tuukka Rask to leave his team and head home after Game 2 arguably lingers in a number of other NHL players.

They’ve all been in the bubble for about three weeks. No family. No true freedom. Just wins and losses without the emotion of fandom.

During Tuesday’s pregame media availability, Capitals head coach Todd Reirden had this to say about that evening’s upcoming Game 4, with Washington looking to avoid getting swept.

“We’ve got to be physically engaged right from the drop of the puck,” Reirden said. “Be prepared to play the best possible game we can play to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Not so much.

Game 4 Insights: Islanders Can’t Close Out Caps | NYHN+

In the first 58 seconds, Tom Wilson egregiously turned the puck over twice in his own end and Brenden Dillon took a tripping penalty. At 3:50 of the 1st period, the Islanders were 1-0. By the time it was 9:16, New York had a 2-0 lead. 9

It felt like the Capitals were mailing it in; their bags already packed.

Then Washington captain Alex Ovechkin got pissed off. With three seconds left in the first period, after getting dumped at the Islanders blueline, “The Great-8” tried to rip Casey Cizikas’s head off with a stranglehold at centre ice.

Washington killed the roughing penalty to start the second period and Ovi was off to the races. He scored his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs and led his team back for a 3-2 victory.

It would have very easy, especially after watching the first ten minutes, to write off the Cap’s. It appeared the bubble psychology would prevail with good reason.

Look at the qualifying series. On August 7th — better known as “elimination Friday” — that’s exactly what we got. Six teams were down 2-games-to-1 in a best of five series. All but one were sent packing. Toronto won in overtime to force a Game 5 playing in their own rink. Was anyone inspired by the Pittsburgh Penguins performance, beyond watching Sidney Crosby?

How many guys were dying to force a deciding game, knowing that if they won it, they would have earned an additional two weeks to two months of neutral-site hockey?

The New York Rangers are pretty stoked. Swept away by the Hurricanes in three games, outscored 11-4, anyone think they’re crying in their soup? No muss, no fuss, back home with the top overall pick.

The point is, some teams fold it up in a normal playoff season when facing a daunting task. It’s individual and collective mental make-up. We’ve been around long enough, we’ve seen the body language, the effort in certain cases over the years. Some results are way more predictable than others. I can only imagine to what degree that feeling has increased this year.

It’s a different season. The world is upside down. Just like the league, hopefully, only this one time, introduced an additional qualifying playoff round to make up for an incomplete regular season. It’s understandable that some players don’t feel like themselves.

Capital Punishment: Islanders Blow Two Goal Lead in Game 4 Loss

On purpose? No way. Subconscious and daunting? Absolutely.

Meanwhile, there may be a very positive flip-side to this. Often we hear people say the first round of a typical Stanley Cup playoff season is the most exciting, crazy, and unpredictable, while teams get tired, banged up, and more grinding as the rounds move on. Who knows, this year, maybe the craziness will complement the physicality of the later rounds. Teams will be six weeks in the bubble by the time they reach the Conference Finals. It might mean even greater energy and desire, as everyone battles to make the most of this highly unusual commitment.

“Obviously being away from family, the longer you’re away from them the harder it gets,” said Carolina forward Vince Trocheck on Tuesday, “but comfortability and getting used to being in here gets a little easier. I think like Brock (McGinn) said, at the end of the day we’re here to win a Stanley Cup and everybody on this team is focused on that. So being in a bubble doesn’t make much of a difference to us.”

Another motivating factor for the Hurricanes is that the next two games are back-to-back. Win Game 5 on Wednesday, they get to turn around the next day and play Game 6. A smidge of solace after collapsing in Game 4.

The Capitals can take solace in the fact that they avoided being swept. Will the same psychology appear for Game 5 on Thursday, that burning desire, or will a daunting subconscious get the best of Alex Ovechkin?

His head coach says not a chance.

“No one scores goals like this player,” Reirden said postgame. “But it’s the other stuff that went on. It was the stuff that was said in the locker room, the stuff that was said to his teammates, the stuff said on the bench. It was physicality, it was belief, it was the emotion he scored after he scored a goal. Get in line, because we’re going. We weren’t getting the success that we needed and now we know what’s mandatory for success going forward.”

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

Lou Lamoriello: Thank You Islanders Fans for the Support



New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello

The 2019-20 season may be over for the New York Islanders, but the team and general manager Lou Lamoriello took a moment to thank the fans for their support on Friday.

In an open letter to fans, Lamoriello thanked them for their continued support through the Islanders extended run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season marked the first time since 1993 that they reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Everyone in your Islanders organization thanks you for your unwavering support during this unprecedented season,” Lou Lamoriello wrote. “The 2019-20 hockey season was a long, however most gratifying journey. We began with training camp in September, the ground-breaking press conference at Belmont Park (UBS Arena) and culminated this past week with so many of you welcoming the team home from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Islanders fans gathered at Republic Airport in Farmingdale last Friday to welcome the team back from Edmonton. NYI Hockey Now was one of two local outlets to cover the return.

Islanders Fans Give Team Warm Welcome Following Surprising Postseason Run

The Islanders general manager assured fans that his staff had begun preparing for the 2020-21 season.

“This past season was another step in the right direction,” Lou Lamoriello later wrote. “High standards have been set for the New York Islanders and we will continue to work at making sure they are met each and every day.”

The Islanders have advanced in the postseason in both years that Lamoriello has been general manager. He was named general manager of the year on September 12.

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.
Continue Reading

New York Islanders

Bruce Bennett Remained in Moment While Capturing Islanders Conference Finals Run



Bruce Bennett captures handshake line

When the New York Islanders playoff run shifted to Edmonton there was only one person who regularly covered the team inside the bubble with them. It wasn’t the regular beat writers who often traveled with the team, nor was it the broadcast crew that covers all 82 of their games, plus the postseason.

No, it wasn’t any of them. Rather, it was hockey photographer and Getty’s director of hockey photography Bruce Bennett, who in four decades of shooting hockey has seen just about everything.

Subscribe here for daily coverage of the New York Islanders from Christan Arnold

“Being the only Long Island guy in the bubble is kind of bizarre,” Bennett told NYI Hockey Now during a Zoom interview from his hotel room in Edmonton. “But, to succeed in this business you need to put that wall up. Whether you’re blocking the fans out or you’re blocking the noise in the building out, which obviously we don’t have to do here. I have to block out that Long Islander in me and go ‘it’s just about you and the game and capturing the scene.'”

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 09: Pat Maroon #14 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked into the goal as Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders tends net during the second period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 09, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The laser-focused approach that Bennett brings to his work is something that even Islanders head coach Barry Trotz would admire, and it’s what has made him one of the best to capture some of the Islanders’ and hockey’s biggest moments. Bennett is in the middle of his 45th season photographing hockey and the 40th Stanley Cup Final he will have covered.

This one will certainly be the most unique one he’s had to work.

Bennett is just one of only a handful of photographers capturing one of the most historic Stanley Cup playoffs that the NHL has put on. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bennett has been forced to snap pictures from the last row of Rogers Place because he not permitted inside the more secure areas of the bubble that the league has created around the unique 2020 postseason.

That means Bennett’s usual spot on the glass is off-limits for him.

Similar to what the players experienced, Bennett went through his own adjustment period when he began shooting games on Aug 24. Bennett arrived in the Edmonton 14 days earlier but was forced to quarantine in adherence to Canadian restrictions for anyone entering the country.

“I guess I’ve come to the realization that with that crowd going crazy that not only gets the players into the game, but it gets my head into the game more,” Bennett said. “It’s like a bubble hockey game where you’re outside looking in. The distance is a big thing. Shooting from so far away and seeing the tops of heads is odd, instead of seeing faces.”

Bennett did get a little bit of a break when the Islanders entered the Edmonton bubble for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Having that knowledge of the players and their movements made Bennett’s job easier. Similar to how a linemate gets to know a teammate’s pattern, it was the same for Bennett when he was shooting pictures.

“Where there most likely to go on the ice, where there passes are most likely to go,” Bennett explained. “Having a little bit of familiarity and being the hometown Long Island boy, trying to take the fan out of it, that’s definitely helped. It piqued my interest and getting the razzing from the two other photographers who are beside me when the Islanders give up a goal. It’s all good natured fun, but it’s definitely got my head back in the game.”

Bennett’s connection with the Islanders runs deeper than just the visits to Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center to photograph the Islanders. Bennett served as the team’s official photographer and has captured some of the most iconic images in the team’s history.

His photo of Bobby Nystrom following his Stanley Cup Winning goal from 1980 remains one of Bennett’s top memories

Bobby Nystrom

Even with that connection to the Islanders, Bennett maintained an emotional distance from what was transpiring on the ice with the Islanders. New York had been competing in the conference finals for the first time since 1993.

“I remove myself from the situation. It’s the only way to do this job,” Bennett said. “The only positive is my 95-year-old mother back in East Meadow gets her Newsday everyday and she’s clipping out my pictures with the photo credits on them. I guess that’s what I’m shooting for. … I’m very close to (the Islanders), but when I get into that arena it’s really just about the best images.”

And getting that iconic image, as Bennett has done so many times, is a simple formula for the veteran photographer. For him, it’s just about remaining focused during the course of the game and outworking the photographers around him.

Bennett does the homework before going into any game he covers. He reads newspapers, checks the hockey websites and looks at the media notes. “I’m prepared and I’m hoping when I get to a game they’re not prepared,” Bennett said.

“For us, you have to be in the game,” Bennett said. “It’s a little bit of a formula. A goalie save. A hard hit, jubilation, dejection and then you run back through it. Some creative images. Some that are off center, white ice and player on the side of the image. There is a little bit of a formulaic progression that you go through during a game.”

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.
Continue Reading

New York Islanders

Islanders Fans Give Team Warm Welcome Following Surprising Postseason Run



Islanders fans

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — For a moment, standing in the parking lot of Republic Airport you would have sworn that you were at the Nassau Coliseum.

Fans walked about in New York Islanders jerseys and chanting “Let’s Go Islanders!” Motorists in their cars leaned on the horn to the same tune. That was the way Islanders fans welcomed the team back to Long Island on Friday afternoon following their Game 6 elimination loss to Tampa Bay the night before.

Subscribe here for daily coverage of the New York Islanders from Christian Arnold

What started as a post on social media about trying to welcome the Islanders home after a month and a half in the NHL’s playoff bubble, led to a sizable crowd waiting just outside the airport gates to greet the team.

“They played with a lot of heart,” Islanders fan Rich Alonzo said. “It was just an amazing thing to see how far this team has come over the 30 years of my life and just the effort they gave. They gave it their all and this is what I could do to give back to them. I’d do anything I can for this team.”

The Islanders charter flight from Edmonton landed on Long Island just after 4:15 p.m. The players disembarked to rousing cheers from the fans that tracked to the small Long Island airport, located less than 15 miles away from the Nassau Coliseum.

One fan NYI Hockey Now spoke with made the trip all the way from Patchogue in eastern Long Island. Another had left school early so he could get to Farmingdale in time to welcome the Islanders home.

Fans carried flags and homemade posters and waved them as the players got off the plane. Chants of “Varly” and “Lou” echoed around the area on several occasions, as did chants for Islanders coach Barry Trotz and star forward Mat Barzal.

“Just how hard the boys worked, they deserve a good welcome home,” Nick Wolf said. “Especially for everything they sacrificed to give us some more Islanders hockey this season. They played amazing. It’s the least we could do.”

For a number of fans on hand on Friday, this year had been the first time they had seen the Islanders go as far as they did. The Islanders hadn’t reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 1993.

So for fans like 19-year-old Taylor Hackal and her 17-year-old sister Brooke, it had been a season like no other.

“I think it’s so cool for us to be a part of it and to be young fans,” Taylor Hackal said while holding a Fathead cutout of Jean-Gabriel Pageau. “Moving forward and as we grow up we can always remember this as one of the best seasons that they’ve had. I think it’s really great.”

It was a similar feel that Anthony Galanoudis expressed.

“I was born in 1995, so this is the deepest I’ve seen them make it,” Galanoudis said. “A lot of young fans here that missed the glory days, the dynasty days. This is our first taste of success and ever since Lou and Trotz came along I think it’s here to stay.”

Several of the Islanders waved to the fans as the got off the plane. Cal Clutterbuck motioned to the crowd several times.

And Pageau thanked Islanders fans for their support in a tweet he sent out while sitting on the bus at Republic Airport.

That surely was to the delight of Brooke Hackal, who called the addition of the centerman one of her top moments this season.

“We were automatically obsessed with him,” Brooke Hackal said. “He’s one of our best players and I think just seeing him be so successful in this playoff series is just really exciting. Looking forward to the future.”

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.
Continue Reading


Enter your email address to get all of our articles delivered directly to your inbox.

NYI Team & Cap Info

Recent Comments

Get the best of NYI Hockey Now in your inbox

Be the first to know! Enter your email to get all of our articles sent straight to your inbox, the minute they're published.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.