Anyone who doesn’t think a playoff series between the Rangers and Islanders would be incredibly, tremendously, fabulously, unfathomably, unbearably and insanely epic, really does need to see a doctor. Monday evening’s tilt only confirmed that.
Game wise, Monday on the Island was one of the best you’ll ever see during the regular season. It had big saves, huge hits, blown leads, timely goals, and the tension of a Valentine’s Day breakup.
First it was the Islanders who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, with their first goal coming just 11 seconds in. The Rangers responded with a goal of their own, but before they could tie it, the Islanders went up 3-1.
The Rangers then fired back. They scored twice in 23 seconds to tie the game at 3, but in typical Rangers-Islanders fashion, the Islanders proceeded to score two more of their own to retake the lead 5-3 early in the final frame.
What was the Rangers’ answer? Three goals of their own in the final 13:35 of regulation time to take the cake by a 6-5 final.
Ryan McDonagh was dominant at the blue line for the Rangers, Chris Kreider showed off his blistering speed and innate hockey sense, St. Louis chose a good time to snap his goal scoring drought, Kevin Klein continued to make Glen Sather look like a comic genius, and Cam Talbot held down the fort when it counted most.
From the point of view of an observer, it was pure joy. For a coach, it was more than likely an absolute nightmare. But better than the game itself, was the unmatched atmosphere off the ice and in the stands of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
That, coupled with the edgy nature of the on-ice play, was what made Monday night so special, and that’s what would make a Rangers-Islanders playoff matchup one of the best in recent memory.
Rivalry on the Island: An Atmosphere Worth Savoring
What single word could describe the vibe during Monday’s game?
There isn’t one, because it simply was indescribable. That is how those games have been in the past, and that is how they will continue to be well into the future.
Whether you were at the game or watching from home, you could have literally closed your eyes and felt the intensity that came with the game. It truly was spectacular.
The crowd was jazzed, alternating “Let’s Go Rangers-Let’s Go Islanders” chants rained down from the fanatics, and when a goal was scored by either team, the building erupted; yes, Rangers fans have always made it a point to show up in Uniondale.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 16, 2015
I personally remember growing up as a Ranger fan on Long Island, and while there isn’t much that I miss about living in the place I was raised, I most certainly miss the experience of going to the Coliseum for a game between the hated rivals.
I’ll never forget the butterflies of excitement I’d have in school during the hours leading up to puck drop, knowing that come 7 p.m. I’d be wearing my Ranger blue in enemy territory. And then the feeling of pure joy when the Rangers would win and I knew I could rub sweet victory to all the Islanders fans in school the following day.
Games between the Rangers and the Islanders are special for reasons far beyond the actual games themselves. And now that both teams aren’t just competitive, but really quite good, the rivalry is approaching what it once was in decades past. The play on the ice is outstanding, the animosity amongst fans is at a premium, and the New York rivalry is reaching new heights.
While I’ll undoubtedly miss the Coliseum for games such as Monday’s, what better way to bid the old barn farewell than with a playoff series between hated foes?
How do we ensure that an Islanders-Rangers playoff series happens?
— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) February 17, 2015
Now that would be unforgettable.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.