With the possibility of it happening gaining traction every day, the thought of an Islanders-Rangers playoff series has New York hockey fans absolutely giddy.
As the average New Yorker walks around the city these days, they do it as normally as the entire world is used to. It’s swift and with a purpose.
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As an onlooker though, something seems to be missing.
That something is the city’s pride and all-around confidence in relationship between the people of New York and their sports teams. For as long as sports has been played in the city, its teams have always taken on the personality of the city: rough, tough, workman-like and overachieving.
No team greater exemplified this sentiment than the 1990’s New York Knicks.
Pat Riley came in and built a no-nonsense team featuring tough guys (some might call thugs) like Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason. If they couldn’t “out-talent” you, they’d punish you.
For a while now, the city has sorely missed having a team like that to call their own.
In fact, they miss the simple enjoyment of even watching a good team. The Giants and Jets have been average to clueless; the Knicks and Nets are laughable as they undermine “The City’s Game” with each passing day; and the city’s bread and butter in baseball has had its world turned upside down on them. In a baseball town the always contending Yankees are trending downward in a hurry while we await a Mets breakthrough.
Hockey is New York City’s ace in the hole.
Hockey is New York City’s ace in the hole.
New Yorkers are smart sports fans. They realize how great this game Canada calls its own is during the most critical and pressure packed situations.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs is arguably the best sporting event in the world, and boy did the the New York Rangers treat their fans last spring.
Thanks to tear-jerking moments suck as Marty St. Louis’ mother and Dominic Moore’s wife, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh and the Rangers improbably ran through the Eastern Conference en route to the Finals.
Not since 1994 had the city been in such a frenzied state when both the Rangers and Knicks appeared in the finals
For this season, the hockey gods decided to up the ante. With the emergence of the New York Islanders, New York is in store for a ridiculous treat this spring.
Feb 16, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save in front of New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) and New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
This Islanders team is no joke. They are big, fast, skilled and will out work the competition, reminding some of those 90’s Knicks teams. Not to mention they have the best hockey player in the city, and one of the top five in the league, on their team in John Tavares.
With the key additions of Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk to name a few, and the emergence of youngster Ryan Strome, this team is flirting with “best in the league” status.
But as the hockey gods have also provided, the Rangers are lingering, only four points behind with three games in hand.
Gary Bettman doesn’t do much right as commissioner of the sport, but when he realigned the divisional and playoff format prior to last season he hit a home run.
It now assures that divisional and hated rivals meet each other more in the playoffs which would guarantee a year in, year out rivalry. Something that could emerge as a back and forth on a yearly basis.
With the Isles leading the division and the Rangers currently in the number two seed, they would be on track to meet in the second round of the playoffs. It’s coming more clear each day that one of these two will win the division and the other will finish either second or third in the division.
A first round matchup is still possible, but the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins would need to leapfrog both teams and take the division, leaving both the Isles and Blueshirts in the second and third seeds. Or, either the Isles or Rangers would have to win the division while the other falls to a Wild Card and is placed in the Metropolitan bracket.
Think about what a playoff series between these two teams would mean. Take the Rangers run last year and multiply it by 100.
Sure, both teams met in the 1994 playoffs and it wasn’t all the rage in New York. It was for good reason though. Nobody thought the Isles could compete and they were right as a four game sweep occurred in the formality of a series.
What makes this potential matchup so special is the fact that one of the greatest fan-bases in the world, the Islanders fan, is on the edge of their seat itching and aching for success. That starving feeling is what makes this special. Not since 1993 has Long Island been treated to what they deserve.
The emotions, rage and absolute enthusiasm that would be present between both fan-bases during a seven-game series in the spring would be epic.
It would bring us back to better days, such as these:
Simply put: we have been robbed of moments for the past two decades.
The only other fan-base that wants the Islanders to succeed more than their own is the Rangers. It’s a classic contrast of Long Island against Manhattan; blue-collar against white-collar; grit against glamour.
A series this spring will bring us back to better days when the Islanders-Rangers were the only priority in our minds. The days before families, and kids, and vacations having enough will to not snap at your brutal inlaws the entire weekend.
If these two meet in the playoffs it will once again allow us to drop everything for two weeks and only have hockey on the mind as dual chants will reign from the rafters: “You can’t beat us” and “Potvin Sucks.”