It has been sadly all too rare in recent
Sure, the lockout-shortened season means today's March is more like yesteryear's December, but even then, a meeting separated by two points in the standings is a treat that should be served up far more often.
In truth, the lockout and three-point games obscures all sorts of things: The Islanders are just two points behind the Rangers in a rather crowded Bubble of Meh in the Atlantic Division, so a regulation win pulls them "level" with the Rangers, while the Flyers and Penguins also meet and the Devils face the Sabures. However, the Rangers have two games in hand and, more damningly, the Isles have three more regulation losses.
Still. Here we are. It's March. The Rangers have underperformed. The Isles have underperformed -- we'll note our preseason fear, blah goaltending -- yet find themselves theoretically hanging around the bubble. Good odds for an emotional classic tonight at Nassau Coliseum, with fans of one side going home particularly bitter.
The two teams meet for the third time in similar states, outside of the Rangers missing a key forward and key defenseman due to injury:
After a funk that nearly caused panic on Short Island, the Rangers have won three in a row and can see the route to a push up the standings.
After starting their seven-game homestand with two regulation losses, the Isles have pulled off an OT loss, a shootout win, and a convincing regulation win over the East's top team in the standings.
The Isles have yet to win three in a row all season -- and repeatedly fall short when presented with the opportunity to pull back to NHL quasi-.500.
There is no better time to change that than tonight.
Capuano, via the official site, expecting a physical battle:
Haley, via Newsday's Arthur Staple, on facing his old team:
It seems Isles fans hate the Penguins almost as much these days, and Rangers fans hate a rotating cast of Atlantic fellows led by the teams from Pennsylvania, but put some stakes on the line and the good ol' rivalry juices should be flowing.
Maybe there's a letdown by the Isles after two wins, or maybe we get an all-too-rare classic. Anything can happen in these crazy meetings. However it goes, I'm sure we'll read deep and meaningful conclusions from the result. And then we'll fire it back up Saturday for the Caps. Ah, hockey.
Regulars, leave your First Islanders Goal picks here.