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NHL Playoffs

Rob Simpson: Holtby Will Need to Find His ‘Zen’ After Game 1 Mistakes | NYHN+

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Braden Holtby

TORONTO — This past regular season I did a weekly podcast for a different media organization called “Simmer’s Morning Skate”. I recorded it at the morning skates of NHL games being played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto over a ten-week period.

This made for casual, insightful chatter with a prominent figure in a ten to 13-minute time span. As opposed to a long-form interview, the format allowed for spontaneity, was great for our attention-deficient culture, and it also allowed for the guest to catch the team bus back to the hotel.

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One of the early visits was with Washington goaltender Braden Holtby. He would be what I refer to as “totally chill.” Kind of a surfer dude in a goaltender’s body. Think “The Big Lebowski” for those old enough to recall the film.

I immediately thought back to the interview we did after I watched the results of Game 1 against the New York Islanders. It was Holtby who ultimately cost them the game. Yes, there are always many factors, but the momentum change and the result were mostly due to Holtby’s play.

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New York Islanders

Lou Lamoriello: Thank You Islanders Fans for the Support

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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.

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New York Islanders

Bruce Bennett Remained in Moment While Capturing Islanders Conference Finals Run

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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.

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“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.”

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New York Islanders

Islanders Fans Give Team Warm Welcome Following Surprising Postseason Run

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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.

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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 bord 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.”

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