New York Rangers, New York Islanders
AP Photo

The New York Rangers anticipated a struggling season. What they didn’t realize is how quickly the Islanders would swoop in and steal the headlines. 

Frank Curto

New York city has always belonged to the New York Rangers. Even during the 1980s when the New York Islanders were winning four consecutive Stanley Cups, the feeling remained that the Blueshirts were the talk of this town.

Rebuilding a team is never fast or easy. A lot of steps backward are made in order to move forward. It’s a “work in progress,” if you will. The team has worked well through the early stages of the rebuild, but one thing has come up that has knocked the Rangers off the back pages of the local newspaper: an impressive first round by the cross-borough rival New York Islanders.

A 3-0 first-round playoff game lead has surprised many in the National Hockey League. The Rangers biggest rival have an opportunity to sweep Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins with a Game 4 win at PPG Paint Arena on Tuesday night.

The news throughout New York City is all about the fish sticks. Their play in the series has been outstanding and shouldn’t be surprising. Great goaltending, timely scoring and an ability to shut down the Penguins top scorers are how the Islanders have won the first three games of this series.

They are doing everything the Rangers hope to do in the very near future.

The pain of watching this series is real. The last thing Rangers fans want to hear is how great the Islanders are doing and possibly advancing to the second round. This is unfolding as the Blueshirts talk about the NHL draft and IIHF World Championships.

The differences in topics are wide-ranging. Ranger fans are feeling the pain more now than when the “letter” was released last season.

I mean these guys don’t even have a real home arena. They are spending the first round of the playoffs playing their home games at the Barn, Nassau Coliseum, and then any remaining playoff games beginning with the second round to be played at the Barclays Center.

How is that even possible? What team shares their home playoff games in two different arenas in two different parts of the same state?

The odds seemed stacked against the Islanders, especially when John Tavares ran out on them last summer. Instead of crying about losing their former number-one pick, they went on to record 103 points this season.

The Rangers had to watch the success of a great season by the blue and orange as they went on to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

To have the Islanders represent this great city in the playoffs is hurtful to fans, but it is part of the rebuilding plan to get the team back to a shot at a playoff run sooner rather than later. The Blueshirts have had a few moments even though it appeared in a different manner.

As the Islanders were talking about the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers were talking about how they weren’t tanking in the final few games of the season.

The Rangers were able to grab some headlines late in the season as it was announced that team president Glen Sather would step down at the season’s end. His replacement will grab the back pages again, but that time could be weeks away.

The teams greatest accomplishment of the season occurred after the season ended when the NHL held its Draft Lottery.

The hockey gods rewarded the team for its hard work this year as the Rangers will make the second pick of this year’s 2019 NHL Entry Draft: a surefire opportunity to pick a player who is ready to step right into the NHL.

Yet that great news was not enough to hold court in NYC. How could it be? The present far outweighs the future and for now, Rangerstown will have to sit back and see how far the Islanders will take this run.

It’s a disheartening fate for New York Rangers fans, but maybe it will serve as motivation for the team to get better a little quicker. For now, fans will have to suffer deciding the worse of two evils,

Rooting for the dreaded Penguins or the hated Islanders: a lose-lose proposition.

Follow Frank Curto on TWITTER

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at