Gotham Hockey Rivalry Is Raging This Winter
The Islanders-Rangers rivalry has always been second to none, even when one team was up and the other was down.
It sometimes seems like the main reason the New Jersey Devils exist is for Isles and Blueshirts fans to get an extra shot at booing whichever enemy happens to be visiting Newark.
That also gives each group the added bonus of booing the Devils.
The rivalry burns even hotter when both clubs are on center stage:
This season, both teams are contenders, which is a good thing for New York hockey and the NHL.
Going into today's slate of games, the Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, with a one-point lead over the always lurking Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers are coming on fast, having won 13 of 14 games, only five points behind the Isles with three games in hand.
The Islanders are led by megastar John Tavares, who leads the team with 19 goals and 39 points.
Tavares, who was injured in the Olympics last season, has come back with a vengence. Every time the suprising Islanders need a big goal, it seems he gets it.
Rugged winger Kyle Okposo leads the team in assists with 28 and has established himself as a elite NHL player. Defensively, the Isles have players like Travis Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk, two reasons their goals-against has come down. Jaroslav Halák has been stellar in goal for the Isles with a 22-8 record and a 2.29 goals-against average.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the Rangers started slow after reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season but are on a roll now, led by Rick Nash, who scored his 26th goal on Saturday night as the Rangers finished up a 3-0 trip through California.
If Nash had played like this last season, the Rangers may just be defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Rangers' defense has gotten better as the season has progressed. Captain Ryan McDonagh has come back from an injury and is becoming his on-ice self again. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal always come to play, while Dan Boyle -- an addition from San José -- is rounding into shape after early season injuries.
Even with everyone playing well, the Rangers will go as far as goalie Henrik Lundqvist will take them. Lundqvist started slow this season, but has rebounded and now holds a 22-8-3 record. The Rangers also are not afraid to rest him; backup Cam Talbot has played eight games and has a 2.14 goals-against average.
Now if only New Jersey could move up in the standings and play like they have in the past, it would be a bonanza for the Metropolitan area and the NHL.