Friday, April 15, 2016

N.Y. Islanders: The Thrill of Victory and Agony of the Seats

From the desk of:  FIVE FOR FLATBUSH

Year One in Brooklyn
45-27-10 (100 Points)

Kings County's second ever NHL season is done.
The Borough's first ever NHL Playoffs is underway!

New York Islanders: The Brooklyn Americans were first to play in Kings County.  The former Long Islanders now bring the Borough into their first ever NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

*The 1939-1940 New York Americans qualified for the playoffs.

The Islanders first season in Brooklyn was a difficult adjustment to say the least.

I knew it would be.  

I settled on the blog title Five For Flatbush in order to capture the Islanders' quest for a 5th Stanley Cup, and to inaugurate their arrival on Flatbush Avenue.

There was a reason, however, why I initially titled this blog Brooklyn's Foster Hockey Club prior to their actual move into Barclays Center.  They are here due more to circumstance, than by choice.  An overburdened Long Island (Nassau County) tax base was unnecessarily forced to vote with their wallets instead of their hearts on a new arena proposal - which could have been avoided if local gov't would have simply worked more cooperatively with Charles Wang and his originally proposed Lighthouse Project.

Looking back, the timing couldn't have been worse.  Barclays Center was never intended to host NHL hockey - nor was there a reason to even consider it.

At the time, the New Jersey Nets were still working in cooperation with the New Jersey Devils on a proposed arena in Newark.  When that plan fell apart, native Brooklynite/real estate developer Bruce Ratner purchased the Nets from motivated sellers.

Since the day Ratner announced intentions to move the Nets into a new arena to be built in Brooklyn, and even throughout the construction of Barclays Center a decade later, no one anticipated the Nets and Islanders reuniting under the same roof ever again.  The two ceased being room mates back in the late 1970's when the Nets moved from Nassau Coliseum, and into the Meadowlands Brendan Byrne Arena.  The hockey Devils then moved from Colorado to join them during the early 1980's.  

The situation left the Islanders alone - a situation very unlike that of the Knicks/Rangers, and aforementioned Nets/Devils.

Quite honestly, I have no idea how many locals are attending home games.  I know some due.   Obviously, wearing Isles gear throughout the decades has not been uncommon here, but I see more now than at any other time I can recall.  Long Islanders may very well be carrying attendance largely by themselves, though  I don't know that, but I'm sure of it.  These figures, however, speak truth...

Local Attendance:
  • New York Rangers: NHL rank #18.  They averaged 18,006 per game;100% capacity.
  • New Jersey Devils: NHL rank #26.  They averaged 15,073 per game; 91% capacity.
  • New York Islanders: NHL rank #28.  They averaged 13,626 per game; 86% capacity.

Here's the rub - the remaining 15% of Barclays Center potential seating for hockey games are (terrible) obstructed views.  Were it for more suitable seating, their attendance would perhaps be on par with that of the Devils, if not better (relatively speaking...) considering capacity is roughly 15,000 at Barclays Center for hockey.  In fact, the Islanders ranked #25 during their last season at the Coliseum, averaging 15,334 per game, or 95% capacity.  A now competitive team playing out a swan song season played into that, but they nevertheless outpaced the Devils whom ranked #26 last season.

Therefore, the Islanders' attendance figures might actually be healthier than meets the eye, but still does nothing to help the fact Barclays is somewhat unsuitable for hockey.  The scoreboard isn't even centered on the rink, adding to the general aesthetic detraction.

Then there's the partial re-branding of the team.  What choice did Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark have?  He had to keep the traditional Long Islanders content, while at the same time entice a new local market with its own very strongly held identity.  As a result, we essentially have a team with an alter ego, donning a completely distinct alternative (or primary?) uniform designed in part to compliment the Brooklyn Nets and the reuniting of one-time arena mates.

At this point, Brett Yormark's mind is undoubtedly pinned on Sunday's first playoff game at Barclays. Only winning playoff games, building a winning atmosphere, and sustained success, make other problems (perceived or real) magically disappear.

Even then, the nuances of this whole arrangement will continue dominating any conversation unless parading a Cup down Flatbush Avenue can change more minds..,

...or one of these parties opt out in a few years.

*          *          *          *

Much like life around Brooklyn, the 2015-16 regular season itself can be summed up with a simple - damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Four teams exceeded 100 points in the Metropolitan Division this season, led by Washington's eye popping 120 points.  The Islanders came in at an even buck, while the Blueshirts finished just a mere point better.

The Islanders arrived in Kings County replete with a genuine star performer - John Tavares.  For several seasons now, his forward line (w/ Kyle Okposos/various third skater) has routinely been the best among any formed by either of the three local hockey clubs.

2015 - 2016

Game One Final
Islanders    5
Panthers    4

As presently formed, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Frans Nielsen led the Islanders to a 5-4 victory in Game One of their opening round series over the Florida Panthers.

The seasoned Islanders opted to counter-punch with the feisty Panthers.

Florida opened the scoring within the first two minutes of play.  Just under five minutes later, Brock Nelson tied the game at one.  But the Panthers converted a power play at the 13:51 mark to inch ahead.  Not for long though ...  Frans Nielsen reciprocated at 16:46 with a power play goal of his own, assisted by Tavares.

One again, Florida opened the 2nd period scoring within the opening two minutes.  Flatbush then embarked on a methodical grinding down of the younger cats.  With 0:22 second left in the session, John Tavares converted feeds from line mates Okposo and Nielsen, tying the game at three.

Flatbush continued turning the tables with Kyle Okposo's early score opening the 3rd period - fed once again by Tavares.

At 6:01, Ryan Strome next scored what proved to be the difference in the game, because within another minute, Florida scored giving the Isles their eventual one goal margin of victory.

Goalie Thomas Greiss, starting in place of injured Jaroslav Halak, faced 46 shots and made 42 saves.

For the moment, home ice advantage has switched over into the Islanders hands.

Playoff hockey arrives in Brooklyn this Sunday for Game Three.

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