There may have only been two points on the line, but anytime the New York Islanders and New York Rangers face off, the points seem more important. The Islanders are coming off their worst week of the season with two losses to the Rangers as well as losses to the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders responded in their final game before the All-Star Break with a 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden to remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the entire league. Through the first 50 minutes of the game, the Islanders were all smiles, but after Scott Mayfield’s ill-advised spearing penalty, the Rangers scored twice on the power play to make it interesting.
“I’m ecstatic with the two points, we were exhausted and we had to battle through it. It was huge for our psyche and the break, said head coach Barry Trotz. “We’ve had so many games in a short period of time and we’re mentally and physically fatigued, the break is going to do us good.”@NYIslanders
With Semyon Varlamov receiving most of the playing time after the goaltending rotation came to an end, Thomas Greiss showed that he is deserving of a shot for more playing time following the All-Star break. The veteran netminder was tremendous against the Carolina Hurricanes allowing the Islanders to earn a point and then he kept the Rangers scoreless until late in the third period, making 40 saves.
Come playoff time, the Islanders will have to make a decision with who they want to start, but Greiss has shown that he is capable of putting together a run like he did in the playoffs back in 2016. (from ‘Islanders beat Panthers 2-1 in 2OTs to end playoff drought,’ Daily Herald, 04/25/2016) By the end of the season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Greiss and Semyon Varlamov each play exactly 41 games if they both remain healthy. Greiss split time with Robin Lehner last season and brought home a Jennings Trophy.
Also, while Greiss will get much of the attention, his defensemen in front of him played well. Rookie Noah Dobson looked much more comfortable in his limited ice time and Nick Leddy continues to be the anchor on the blue line after the injury to Adam Pelech receiving over 25 minutes of ice time.
Power Play Success
During some games this season, it was noteworthy when the Islanders were even getting power plays. They only had two chances against the Rangers, but made them both count. The goals weren’t necessarily how Trotz and his staff would draw them up on the power play though they both counted. Noah Dobson shot one on net that Josh Bailey was able to deflect it in off a New York Ranger.
Then the Islanders came in on an odd-man rush and Mat Barzal spotted the trailing Anthony Beauvillier for their second goal of the first period. Coming into the game, the Islanders had scored one power-play goal in their last 27 attempts.
The Metropolitan Division is arguably the toughest division in the entire NHL. A season ago, they sent five teams to the playoffs and once again have five teams holding a playoff spot. The Islanders have not fared too well against the division but have a favorable schedule upcoming. They have already played three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals meaning they only play the top two teams in the division one more time each.
They also have two more games against the Carolina Hurricanes with both games being played at home and will see the struggling New Jersey Devils two more times this season. The Islanders will also host the New York Rangers one final time as their crosstown rivals hope to make a run late in the season.
With the All-Star Break later this week, the Islanders will have a stretch of 10-straight days without a game as their bye week takes place following the All-star Game. However, they will start back up on Feb. 1 and will virtually play every other night the remainder of February.
The Islanders will begin the home-stand against the Vancouver Canucks and also play the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Also, the trade deadline will be approaching as general manager Lou Lamoriello will need to be active in hopes of finding another forward.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.