Sure, the NHL regular season has its highs, but should the New York Rangers and Islanders meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs…fuhgeddaboudit.
New York Rangers (38-21-6, 82 pts)
New York Islanders (35-20-7, 77 pts)
Today, 5:00 PM on MSG, MSG+2
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
By Robby Sabo
Do yourself a favor and imagine a world of hockey which includes bone-chilling hits, scary facial expressions, and a will to overcome the odds so fierce it far exceeds any remote thought of self-preservation.
Imagine hockey so intense, so exciting that even stoppages have you standing out of seat.
What’s just been described is the NHL playoffs – more commonly referred to as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A tournament so self-sacrificing it often takes a full calendar year for bodies to heal.
And if that happens, well then, fuhgeddaboudit.
It will be nothing short of epic. Honestly. Think of the intensity that would carried around by the likes of Matt Martin, Tanner Glass, Jeff Clutterbuck, and Chris Krieder. If by chance a mini-miracle happens and Alain Vigneault plays Dylan McIlrath, could you visualize a real McIlrath-Martin encounter in the playoffs?
Could you imagine Henrik Lundqvist having to go through an extremely hungry Isles squad en route to that elusive Stanley Cup? Or John Tavares (the best player in the city) looking to take that next step in a possible Hall of Fame career?
As a former Rangers’ goaltender and MSG Network broadcaster often said: “ohhhh baby!”
But alas, it’s still early March, and the regular season has yet to commence. All of this Rangers-Isles playoffs talk is very real, however.
As it stands right now, the Blueshirts are firmly planted in the No. 2 spot in the Metropolitan Division with 82 points in 65 games played. The Isles – who have been even hotter than the Rangers as of late with a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10 – are buried in the No. 3 spot of the division with 77 points in 62 games played.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who square off against the New Jersey Devils tonight, trail the Isles by three points.
Unlike last season though, the Isles actually have games-in-hand on the competition. They’re currently equipped with three games in hand on the Rangers and two on the Pens. This is the polar-opposite of last season, in which the Rangers had that advantage.
Unless the Philadelphia Flyers absolutely catch fire, only Pittsburgh can ruin a Rangers-Isles first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This means New York City is chomping at the bit. This means hockey will be back in a major way in the Big Apple.
It means the general New York City population would begin to stop complaining about how terrible the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are, and starting praising how lucky they are to be blessed with such great hockey squads.
A Rangers-Isles first round playoffs series would change everything.
Enjoy the preview tonight at Madison Square Garden.