Seems Like Old Times: Rangers/Islanders Rivalry Renewed
The Rangers entered this season coming off a 2011-12 run that saw them earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference and beat the Ottawa Senators in a thrilling first round series before bowing to the Washington Capitals in an equally entertaining seven-game series in the Semis. After the lockout finally ended, expectations for the Rangers were sky high as they returned the same talented bunch led by scoring-leader Marian Gaborik (since traded), Captain Ryan Callahan, and the staunch goaltending of King Henrik Lundqvist, to name just a few. To add to this embarrassment of riches, the Blueshirts also traded for all-star winger Rick Nash from Columbus. Yet here they stand, two weeks before the regular season ends, fighting for their playoff lives against their old rivals.
The Islanders, on the other hand, came into this campaign with the same expectations as they have for the better part of the last two decades: None. This once-proud franchise, so dominant in the early-80s, has seen its star dim considerably. They are almost the hockey equivalent of an abandoned amusement park. Their arena, the Nassau Coliseum, is now more popularly called the Nassau Mausoleum. Their last playoff series win came 18 years ago. Anyway, you get the picture. It really came as no surprise when the team announced that they would be moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season. But, at least for tonight, the lights are on, the Isles are in the playoff hunt, and the crowd at the Coliseum should be rocking.
As of now, both the Islanders and Rangers are in the playoffs occupying the 7th and 8th seeds respectively. Though tonight’s game isn’t a must-win for either team, it’s pretty damn close. The winner will have a bit more of a comfort zone as they jockey for the final three Eastern Conference playoff spots with Ottawa, Winnipeg, and a New Jersey team on life support. The Rangers have at least one game in hand against all of those teams, but that doesn’t mean that a loss tonight wouldn’t be somewhat soul-crushing for a team with such high expectations. For this reason, the Islanders’ renewed relevance, and the palpable hockey buzz around the New York Metropolitan area, this game should be a must-see for all hockey fans. Enjoy!