The NHL's Tri-State Contingent Already in Playoff Position
Coming into the current NHL season, most experts thought this is how the Tri-State area clubs would fare:
- The Rangers were a lock to return to the playoffs and make another long run,
- The Islanders were right on the bubble, while
- The Devils were picked to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
True to expectations, all three teams started out as predicted:
- The Rangers got off to a wonderful start,
- The Islanders hovered around .500, and
- The Devils started the season 0-4.
The thing about things, though, is they change.
The Rangers have hit the skids. The President's Trophy holders started 16-3-2 before then. Injuries have slowed the Blueshirts as Derek Stepan, Kevin Klein, and Dan Girardi are all injured.
As the Christmas break looms, New York needs their stars like Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, and Ryan McDonagh to step up until the team gets back to full strength.
The Islanders made the playoffs last season, feeding off the emotion of the closing of the Nassau Coliseum. They took Washington to the limit in the first round, losing a tough 2-1 decision in Game 7.
John Tavares is still the leader of the team, while Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Jaroslav Halak gotta be the dudes if the Isles expect to bring Stanley Cup excitement to Brooklyn.
The Devils have a new coach in John Hynes, and his no-nonsense style has gotten results.
New Jersey is now in playoff position.
Cory Schneider is a star goalie who can play up to 70 games, while newcomers Lee Stempniak and Kyle Palmieri have played great in leading the Devils back from such a bad start.
As the season ushers in 2016, three teams seperated by 20 minutes -- without traffic -- are positioned for a stretch run. The Rangers are still the favorites, but their neighbors have a taste of spring hockey now.
Things should be fierce.