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SoHo, N. Y. – I am willing to do many things for my beloved New York Islanders, especially going out on a limb for them—an exercise I’ve wholeheartedly undertaken for the past several years. Never one to hand out excuses or rationalize an overtly detrimental event/outcome for this enigmatic yet talented hockey team, the following few words align with a sobriety that only comes from years of brutal honesty derived from shortcomings in personnel and success that would harden most fair-weathered hearts and cloud most fickle minds.
No. Going out on a limb for this team at present is directly inspired by the obvious grit and camaraderie on display every night these past several weeks.
I’m with Thomas Carlyle on this one: “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.” Good old Tom sums up why the Islanders have a snowball’s chance in Antarctica to make both the playoffs and even a run to the finals: hope and health.
At the onset of this truncated season, I had asked only one thing of the Hockey Gods: to give us our daily dose of gritty, hard-nose, blue-collar hockey dressed in blue and orange. That the Islanders would in fact make everyone’s life miserable on the ice scoring goals, crunching bones, and making everyone in the NHL take notice, was more than any bruised and battered Isles fan could/can ask for.
All the aforementioned done so in an effort to eradicate the aura of mediocrity surrounding this organization; regain some ‘face’ with those crosstown rivals of ours, whose inflated sense of self-worth prohibits them and [some of] their fans from realizing some sobering facts about their success rate since 1994: of the teams that comprise the tri-state area and a bit beyond– Devils, Sabres, Flyers, and Penguins–the Rangers haven’t fared any better with regards to making the finals and winning the cup than the Isles. In fact, of the three teams within the immediate tri-state vicinity, only the Devils can boast at having the better franchise. In fact, the Rangers, Sabres, and Flyers have never had a dynasty that compares with Pittsburgh, and even more, can compare to the New York Islanders.
Although the Islanders have had their share of awful seasons and inconsistencies, they’ve been written off because of the manner in which news and opinions are spun in a town like New York City. And unlike the Yankees, who can give any rival team in any sport a complex with their vast bankroll and plethora of championships (and thus winning tradition) the Rangers haven’t the history to push their Long Island cousins around and mock their existence. Yet the media has us believing they can and should.
Examine if you will the following: what exactly have they, the Rangers, done to deserve the floor to belittle, or appear to belittle, a team with a championship tradition found in the New York Islanders? I say, nothing but a propaganda machine. That’s it. Smokescreens that otherwise hide an organization with money from in-depth public scrutiny that would reveal mediocre results. If the Canadiens are the Yankees of hockey with regards to Stanley Cups, then the Rangers are the Mets of the NHL in turn. Bankroll, some decent players, some amazing players at a given time (Leetch, Richter, Graves), but scattered postseason success that is dwarfed when compared to other teams who spend less.
So when the Islanders lost in OT this past Saturday night, and the Rangers found it appropriate to ridicule them for it by raising their sticks at center ice, (or nearby as some of my sources told me afterwards) the thought occurred to me that the Rangers have a complex too. Bonafide and proven that night on said center ice.
The Rangers need to oppress their Long Island rivals because they’ve now realized the Isles are back. The Isles are the measuring stick for the Rangers, from everything like postseason success, to television time, to arenas, etc.
For why else feel the need to celebrate a regular season victory against the Islanders in such fashion, right? I mean if we’re “terrible,” why not just skate off the ice and have good laugh in the locker room? Why put on a public display of victory unless you’ve realized that the spotlight is dimming on you? Reminds me of the proverbial image of the shipwrecked sailor who reaches shore, looking back at the waters that almost swallowed him whole, sighing and smiling at cheating death; the Rangers understand that their future success and return to ’94 glory is much more tenuous and further away than what appeared at first glance. And that tenuous hold of NYC hockey interest has always been thus since 1972, ’78 and onward to be more precise. Perhaps the Rangers now see themselves in the Islanders more than ever. See what they don’t have at present, specifically: grit, edge, chemistry.
So, my going out on the limb reads as follows: the Islanders will make the playoffs, as will the Rangers, and they will see each other again somehow in the postseason. But not only for this year, but for years to come. And unlike the sweep in 1994 that paved the way for the New York Rangers/Oilers to win their lone Lord Stanley post-WWII, the Islanders will repeat the dominance of the early 80s in Brooklyn-esque like fashion: gritty, blue-collar, honest, and enduring. These rag-tags, these misfit Islanders of ours are New York’s team, it’s just that New York doesn’t know it yet.
I’m with BD on this one. Win or lose, the Isles must keep focus. Games need to be played that are as crucial, if not more so, than Saturday’s. In fact, if they lose the next four, they’re done for. For me, Saturday’s matchup and outcome favored the Islanders for two reasons: 1. the Isles still managed a point; 2. a biting reality check.
The Isles tasted a bitter split decision that only serves to fire up a team chock filled with chemistry and determination at present, rather than deflate it. The Rangers are the team under pressure, for they have yet to find a defined identity that will carry them through the remaining portion of the season.
The question remains: will the Rangers succumb to the notorious post NYI-NYR letdown so common in both teams’ past when the rivalry was at its peak? I say sure money the Rangers flounder toward the end but squeak into the postseason, while the Isles sit comfortably in 6th place. (The aforementioned limb upon which I now find myself perched is slowing bending, of course, but still very much supporting the weight of my conviction and prediction here, so I believe.)
And so that I appear as level-headed and unbiased as possible, let me say that I concede to the notion that the Rangers although unstable and not all that impressive overall, are filled with absolutely wonderful talent: Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash to name a few–a set of players that forces me to both like and respect an otherwise bitter foe. Nash and Callahan are just plain brilliant. So, again, I say: the Rangers must make the playoffs, if only so that the Islanders can beat the ‘best’. Enough of this dodging teams: if you believe in the Isles, it shouldn’t matter who they play. To be the best, you must beat the best. And to take this town you have to win games of similar tempo and tenor as the one played this past Saturday on a much grander stage with much more at stake. The Islanders are in position to do so.
JFigs25 is my kind of Rangers’s fan: honest, snarky, and always respectful of the reality in front of him. We’ve had a great exchange during this truncated season, and he can even attest that Saturday’s game had his heart racing too, because I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Rangers made me anxious. I highlighted his tweet as the type of candor and banter that makes the rivalry both fun and gut-wrenching to watch. Most importantly, the type of exchanges found on Twitter this past Saturday, before, during, and after the game, demonstrates New York City as the mecca of sports towns; we want all our teams to battle it out: Knicks, Nets, Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Isles, Rangers, and yes, the Red Bulls. To JFigs I say, you may ‘hate’ what I have to say about your beloved Blueshirts, but you know that you love ‘hating’ us and need to ‘hate’ us. Makes you guys that much better. #Respect for JFigs.
Eyesonisles very own Andy Graziano shared Kevin’s tweet in his previous installment of Top Shelf, but considering the tenor of what’s written here, I’ve decided that Kevin’s sentiment needed a second glance. I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to our boys who have given us some great times this season.
Skating Around the Ice
- Chicago Blackhawks v. St. Louis Blues (12.30pm; NBC): Corey Crawford stopped all 30 Blues shots to help Chicago improve to 32-5-4, and 3-1 against the Blues themselves. Marian Hossa scored his 15th shorthanded, as the Hawks proved too much for St. Louis this afternoon. The Blues sit in the 6th spot, 1 pt ahead of the Wild and Red Wings, and 3 ahead of the Stars and Blue Jackets. If any team resembles the Islanders this year in both success and inconsistencies it’s the Blues. But rest assured, they’ll make it and make some trouble in the West. Bet on it.
- Tampa Bay Lightning v. Buffalo Sabres (5pm; NHLNET-CA): Jhonas Enroth in for Ryan Miller helped the struggling Sabres garner a much need victory on home ice this late afternoon, as Tyler Ennis scored his 10th of the season, while Jochen Hecht and Kevin Porter each notched their 4th. Earlier in the week Steve Ott criticized Sabres fans for booing their recent performance at home, call such a reaction “completely ridiculous” and going on to state, “I mean, you’re a fan of the Buffalo Sabres and hopefully you come to cheer us on and motivate us to be good.” Although lacking in tact considering the fans are the ones paying his salary, sifting through Ott’s ire one finds an honest appeal for consideration. Here’s a man that, despite his clumsy approach, is saying nothing less than he respects his team and respects their efforts, even if the result is less than successful. He’d expect the fans to be a bit more intelligent, I guess, at the present condition in which the team finds itself. Patient as well. But if you want patience and consideration from the fans, Steve, you have to exude it, too. Remember the world in which live: instant gratification. Shut your ears and play the game. Nevertheless, the Sabres etched out a victory on home ice today, and remain in the playoff hunt, if barely so. Curious to see how it all turns out in Buffalo.
- Detroit Red Wings v. Nashville Predators (7:30pm; NBCSN): Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Justin Abdelkader each tallied their 9th goal of the season to give the Red Wings the 3-0 victory in Nashville. Jimmy Howard ends a recent skid of three loses between the pipes, as Detroit improves to 20-15-7 with 47 pts, tied with the Wild for the 7th spot.
Current Eastern Conference Standings
Good day to you.
- @IliumInc (This guy)
- @tazman19 (Andy Graziano)
- @moosiestmoose42 (Scotty Bonner)
- @michaelwillhoft (Mike Willhoft)
- @eyesonislesfs (official twitter account for eyesonisles.com)
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Other Facebook Islanders pages that deserve your attention!
Check out Gary Harding’s blog (former Isles booster club VP)