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‘New York Saints’ all the rage as Islanders prepare for next matchup against Lightning

An Islanders fan had a message for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy during Game 6 Wednesday in Uniondale, N.Y.
An Islanders fan had a message for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy during Game 6 Wednesday in Uniondale, N.Y.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Seth Tierney got chills hearing Islanders fans at a jam-packed Nassau Coliseum chant, “New York Saints! New York Saints!”

By then, Tierney had figured out it wasn’t about the now-defunct indoor lacrosse team by the same name for which he played three seasons. The NFL’s New Orleans Saints knew it wasn’t about them, either, but that didn’t stop them from hopping aboard the bandwagon.

Since Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said while criticizing officiating, “They sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders,” the moniker has caught on. “When the Saints Go Marching In” has become the unofficial fight song of the Islanders’ playoff run, the old lacrosse team is accidentally back in the headlines and Cassidy’s $25,000 fine from the NHL seems to be worth every penny for sparking such an unpredictable playoff story line.

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“Sometimes it just takes a little bit of a weird spark to start one of these forest fires, and that’s what we’ve got going on right now,” said Tierney, who’s now Hofstra’s men’s lacrosse coach. “Certainly glad for the Islanders, glad for Long Island and the Coliseum.”

The Islanders, who eliminated the Bruins in six games, will face the Lightning in the Stanley Cup semifinals beginning Sunday in Tampa.

Who saw this coming?

“Fans and social media run with a lot of things these days,” Islanders veteran forward Matt Martin said Friday. “Obviously I heard the chants the other night pretty well anytime we got a penalty. That’s what fans do: They enjoy it. They make this stuff entertaining.”

Tierney and fellow alumni of the National Lacrosse League’s New York Saints are certainly entertained. The team that existed from 1989-2003 is getting a revival of sorts with some Islanders fans breaking out old gear with the logo of a Saint Bernard holding a lacrosse stick to pair with halos and angel wins.

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“It’s almost like folklore where you’re talking, ‘Remember the Saints?’ and the stories start flying around,” former player Jeff Shirk said. “There’s definitely a nostalgia involved.”

Shirk described his old team as “a ragtag group,” and Tierney fondly recalls making $124.90 a game after taxes. The way former player Gavin Prout describes it, the Saints were a lot like the Islanders are now.

“They battled through a number of years and people always stood by the Saints,” Prout said. “We did battle through a lot of adversity both on and off the floor, but it was always team first and the guys were fantastic.”

The lacrosse Saints also played at Nassau Coliseum, which will be rocking again when the Islanders face the Lightning with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final at stake. Tierney watches now with pride about the arena’s lacrosse past and present with the New York Riptide and hopes the Islanders can hang another banner — even though it’ll go up in a sparking new building up the road at Belmont Park.

“To have 12,000 people coming out of a pandemic and chanting ‘New York Saints’ and people wearing T-shirts and jerseys and things like that, it’s like Armageddon in your mind and you just flash back to that point in time,” he said. “With them moving, if they can have a going-away party and win this whole thing, that would be awesome.”

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Cole Caufield, the Hobey Baker winner from Wisconsin, has sparked the Canadiens to seven consecutive wins and into the semifinals against Vegas.
Cole Caufield, the Hobey Baker winner from Wisconsin, has sparked the Canadiens to seven consecutive wins and into the semifinals against Vegas.Minas Panagiotakis/Getty

Caufield coming up big for Canadiens

When the Montreal Canadiens were one goal away from being eliminated in the first round, and then again when they were one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals, Cole Caufield set up the overtime winner each time.

Caufield was dominating college hockey just two months earlier and suddenly at age 20 had become a key player for the NHL’s most storied franchise. Along with Colorado forwards Alex Newhook (Boston College) and Sampo Ranta, and Florida goaltender Spencer Knight (BC), Caufield’s success jumping right into the playoffs fresh off playing a full college season could inspire more teams to infuse fresh blood into their lineups at the most intense time of year.

“Any team that’s gone through a year is looking for some sort of spark, some sort of hope,” said Tony Granato, who coached Caufield at Wisconsin. “There is nothing better for a lineup than young energy entering the locker room and being able to add some speed and young legs into the lineup. Every team needs it.”

There’s no doubt the Canadiens needed the 5-foot-7-inch Caufield, the 2021 Hobey Baker winner. They are 7-1 since he joined their lineup, and will face the Golden Knights in a Stanley Cup semifinal series beginning Monday.

“You learn from each game, and you kind of grow and make adjustments along the way,” Caufield said. “But the guys have made me feel pretty comfortable, and the coaching staff has done a great job of welcoming me in and teaching me real fast how to play here.”

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Alex Pietrangelo (left) celebrates with Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after their Game 6 win Thursday night over the Avalanche.
Alex Pietrangelo (left) celebrates with Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after their Game 6 win Thursday night over the Avalanche.Ethan Miller/Getty

Pietrangelo’s move paying off

When Alex Pietrangelo signed with the Golden Knights in October, he didn’t mince words as to why he left St. Louis after 12 seasons.

“Obviously the atmosphere; I mean, I think everybody agrees it’s probably the best place to play in the NHL right now,” he said. “They play the way I think the game should be played, so you want to go somewhere you feel comfortable and that you can help.”

His contributions Thursday night helped the Golden Knights move into the NHL’s final four for the third time in the franchise’s four years.

Pietrangelo scored his first goal of the postseason to break a tie late in the second period, and the Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, in Game 6 of their second-round series to advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals.

Pietrangelo, who finished the series with 22 shots, 21 blocks, and a point in all four wins, now has 16 career points in 17 potential series-clinching games played.

“I thought he was the best player in the series, on either team,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “He was an absolute monster for us. Defensively, blocking shots, offensively, the goal tonight — that’s what we brought him here for, for this time of year, and those situations.”

Nick Holden, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier, and Max Pacioretty also scored for Vegas, which won four straight in the series. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots and moved into sole possession of fourth place all-time with 89 playoff wins.

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