The New York Islanders are sitting on the outside watching this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Isles cross-town rival New York Rangers success this year provokes an interesting thought for the future. A potential “Battle of New York” playoff series is likely to occur in the next few years.
If the Islanders make the right moves to improve the roster this offseason, they should be a playoff team in 2023. The Rangers are widely expected to make a return to the playoffs as well. This could set up the first all-New York playoff series since 1994. The playoffs this year featured the "Battle of Alberta" for the first time since 1991, so why can’t another one of the NHL’s most heated rivalries make a return to the playoffs?
The Islanders and Rangers have faced off in the postseason eight times before. The Isles are 20-19 all-time in individual playoff games, good for a 5-3 record in those series against the Rangers. Both teams each won a series in the '70s. The Isles defeated the Rangers en route to their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th championships from 1981 to 1983 as well as their trip to the finals in 1984. The Rangers won the final two meetings in 1990 and with a sweep in 1994 en route to a Stanley Cup win.
Why Has It Been So Long Since the Last Matchup?
It has been 28 years since the last matchup, and there are many reasons why. One reason is that the playoffs are formatted differently from the way they were in the past. Nowadays, there are also a lot more teams via expansion. In 1994 there were only 26 franchises with even fewer teams in previous years. Now with 32, there are more matchups and it is harder to reach the postseason.
The main reason for not having a "Battle of New York" in the playoffs is because both teams have rarely made the playoffs in the same season. Since 1994, there have only been five occasions where both the Islanders and Rangers made the playoffs the same year, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2020 (bubble). In 2015 the Islanders lost a Game 7 to the Capitals that would have set up the rivalry series, the only year it was possible early on in the playoffs.
There Is a High Chance of an Islanders/Rangers Series
Hockey in New York is in a good place with both the Islanders and Rangers having recent success. The Islanders are trying to make it back to the playoffs and have the potential to do so. A big splash this offseason along with adding some depth could catapult the Isles right back into the postseason. Both teams have a lot of young talent rising up the ranks and looking to make a difference.
The Islanders and Rangers could create the best "Battle of New York" playoff series yet next season or in the near future. It could definitely occur, but only time will tell to see if this matchup actually happens. The "Battle of Alberta" proves anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.