It has been over 20 years since the New York Islanders and Rangers met in the postseason. With the Rangers looking for another deep run and the Islanders looking to take the next step, a playoff series is exactly what these two clubs need.
So far, it seems that both the New York Islanders and Rangers should be positively labeled as regular-season question marks.
The Isles started off hot and still are, offensively. The main issue remains that the goaltenders cannot stop a beach ball. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have struggled mightily with little flashes of excellence. Thanks only to the scoring, the Isles have avoided the cellar of the eastern conference early on.
In Manhattan, the Rangers started off slow. They were one of the last teams in the eastern conference, and it appeared that Henrik Lundqvist was slowing down. With Ondrej Pavelec as the Blueshirts’ newest backup, for the first time in awhile the goaltending felt like a question mark.
Now with tides shifting in opposite directions for both clubs, the time has come more than ever before for the two to faceoff beyond the first ten days of April. While there is a multitude of reasons for why this needs to happen, we’ll focus on just a few.
Brand New Generation
First off, this generation has never seen it. If you weren’t born in the late 80s, there is no way for anyone to remember the last meeting in 1994. There will be an exception to the few four-year-old kiddos that were born in 1990 with incredible memories.
Since then, the Islanders have gone through not one, but two rebuilds while the Rangers have been a consistent threat in the heart of New York City.
Other than the fact that the two clubs are bitter rivals and fans constantly get into verbal spats, there’s no reason for the clubs to hate each other.
Yes, you read that right. Really think about it.
Aside from Chris Simon’s vicious slash and Dan Cloutier challenging the Islanders bench in a meaningless game in April, there is a little on-ice occurrence of the two rivals feuding. The point? The rivalry has been packed and stowed away in a few isolated incidents. A playoff series where there is no love-loss would bring that back.
Barring the 2014 Stadium Series played outdoors, there have been little to no occurrences where the two rivals have been thrown on a huge stage. Even the Stadium Series was botched by the NHL for scheduling it on a Wednesday night in January.
While it isn’t anyone else’s problem but their own, it is also worthy to note that the Islanders were still coming out of a rebuild that night. In net was the aging Evgeni Nabokov and on defense was Brian Strait getting regular minutes.
That being said, imagine what these two teams could do with the current rosters. When both clubs perform to their highest potential, the clubs are some of the toughest in the NHL.
With referees slowly phasing out fighting by pulling players away, it is challenging to get a cutthroat game on the ice. The substitute for that? Good, strong hockey. No doubt, there would be some heavy hits thrown too. These would come out strong in a playoff series, no matter what round.
Mr. Claus, Let it be Long
Finally, the series needs to play out as long. The last meeting took place in ’94 when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. The Isles put up little to no fight in that series by getting swept. In that series, the Isles lost 6-0 twice in back-to-back occurrences.
On one side of town there was rejoice, while on the other, fans were aloof trying to find the identity of their team. In terms of the fans, it kept the rivalry going, but for on-ice competition, there was none.
On one side of town, Rangers fans are looking for one (or two) last run under Lundqvist’s tenure. To the east in Brooklyn, and soon to be Long Island, the Islanders are trying to take the next step in returning to glory. Putting these two teams together in a series would be like turning back the clock to 1975. That was the first series between the two clubs.
In that year, the two teams were at identical points in their franchise’s outlook. A Rangers squad used to success, and an Islanders team trying to make a name for themselves.
So can the Islanders and Rangers meet in the playoffs for the first time in 20 years? We could only wish for it on our Christmas lists. There’s no doubt that both would thrive off of it.