For the last 10 years, the rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders was dormant and only known in the media for being overrated as the Islanders floundered in mediocrity. Yet the build up to the Islanders 3-0 win over the Rangers at MSG the other night was one of the biggest and most intense for a regular season game for many years, bigger than even the Stadium Series just over a year ago, for the first time in decades the two teams were fighting over first place in the division.
It hasn’t been a good year for sport in the New York area, the Jets and Giants both missed the play offs by a wide margin and the Knicks have been awful to say the least along with the Yankees and Mets. Yet despite the shroud of mediocrity over the city, the Rangers and Islanders are bucking the trend especially in the case of the Islanders who are currently second in the Eastern Conference ahead of a crunch game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the grand scheme of things, a regular season game in January changes very little but it’s the start of the process, seats before the game were going for over two hundred dollars on the secondary market and tickets for the game at the Coliseum in a few weeks start at $120 and that’s likely to go up very quickly and it’s certain to be a sell out with a play off atmosphere to match.
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The last time the Islanders met the Rangers in the play offs was just over twenty years ago and it didn’t end well with a 4-0 sweep in favour of the Rangers en route towards the Stanley Cup. Since then the Islanders have simply been a figure of fun for Rangers fans with the team doing nothing to change that in the time since but finally that has changed and the Islanders are the best team in New York at this moment in time.
The rivalry is nowhere near the heights of where it was during the dynasty years, but with both teams currently on course to make the play offs it is inevitable that at some point soon the teams paths will collide and it will be titanic and the national media will finally take notice. New York may still be “Rangerstown” but there’s no question about who the better team is right now.