On October 14th, the Islanders and Rangers met for the first time in the 2014/2015 season. The Islanders came out of the match up victorious by a score of 6-3 giving them their third win of the season. With the Islanders in first place, and the Rangers being arguably the hottest team in the NHL, the rivalry has gained juice it hasn’t had in a long time.
Kids Coming of Age
The Islanders have really seen the fruits of their rebuild this season as Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee have all become key members of the team. Nelson came on strong out of the gate, but has cooled down a bit in recent games. He is second on the team in goals with 15 behind John Tavares and fourth on the team in points behind Tavares, Okposo and Ryan Strome. Meanwhile, Strome who had a slower start to the season than Nelson has really come on of late. His hot play has propelled him to third on the team in points with 30 in 42 games. His skills were seen by all most recently on Saturday in Columbus on his assist on Matt Martins goal. From just inside the offensive zone, with Martin breaking down the middle, Strome sent a beautiful pass in Martins direction and Martin stuck his stick out and got the Islanders second goal of the night. While Anders Lee hasn’t put up the stats of Strome or Nelson, he has come up clutch with many game winning goals this season. One attribute to his game that he has really fine tuned that the others haven’t is tipping in front of the net. Lee is excellent at that and it has really come in handy for him. Tonights game is the kids first real opportunity to partake in the rivalry and see what used to make it great.
Rick Nash Emerging
While Rick Nash hasn’t been a huge disappointment in his time with the Rangers, to say he has been the player the Rangers thought they were getting would be more incorrect than correct. In his first season two years ago, Nash managed 42 points in 44 games. Not a terrible season by any means, but not the elite level the Rangers thought they were getting. Last year was a down year for him as he had just 39 points in 65 games. This season, Nash already has 26 goals which matches his total from all of last season. Nash finding his scoring touch has been arguably the biggest key for the Rangers in terms of their success this year as Nash is currently on pace for a career high in goals. If the Rangers hope to continue their hot play and maintain pace with the Islanders, Nash is going to have to continue this play and not cool off in the slightest.
Islanders Rangers Rivalry
People outside New York may not realize this, but Islander vs Ranger games can get just as intense as any other huge rivalry game in the NHL like the Battle of Ontario or Montreal vs Boston. With hockey being the fourth sport in New York, the rivalry doesn’t get the coverage it should which causes it to get overlooked on the more national scene. The rivalry has lost some luster on the ice in recent years due to the Islanders lackluster play. However, it didn’t lose anything among the fans who still created a fantastic atmosphere at most games. This year though, it is different from years past as the Islanders sit in first place in the division with 57 points and the Rangers are five points behind them and 13-1 in their last 14 games. According to Arthur Staple, this is the first time since 1982 that the Islanders will go into MSG at least 15 games over .500. For the first time in a long time, an Islander Ranger game will be on the mind of a typical New Yorker today, not just the hockey fans.
Insane stat of the day: Last time #Isles went to MSG at least 15 games over .500? March 29, 1982 (52-15-9).
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 12, 2015