Have the Islanders Surpassed Their Big Brother?
Are the Islanders finally better than the Rangers? It has taken years to ask that question and not be mocked for sheer insanity or stupidity. With the resurgence of the Isles’ play and unexpected rise up the Eastern Conference standings, fans of the Islanders would answer with a resounding yes.
Supporters of the contrary would argue the results of the 2013 season series between the heated rivals. The Rangers bested the Islanders 3 out of 4 times. Aside from the first meeting of February 7th, where the lifeless Isles were drubbed 4-1 at MSG, each game has been close.
The games were so close that, in reality each contest could have went to either side. Who could forget Saturday’s epic battle that saw the Isles fall in overtime? Fans of the orange and blue wanted to blame the referees but after the loss settled, it became evident that they just had a better goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist, when on, is the best goalie in the NHL.
I’m not sitting here taking away anything that Evgeni Nabokov did because he was and continues to play an incredible brand of hockey. He has been the most valuable player for the Islanders during their rise up the standings. However, Lundqvist showed Saturday that when he is right, he is awfully tough to beat. (Photo Credit: Flickr/bridgetds)
Furthering the point about Henrik being the absolute difference at times, the Islanders have scored 22 more goals than the Rangers over the course of the 2013 campaign (124-102 respectively). However, the Islanders have given up 24 more goals than the Rangers. (124-100 respectively).
Nabokov and Lundqvist have played the same amount of games at 37. Evgeni has the edge in wins 21-19 over Henrik. Lundqvist has the edge in GAA at 2.09 to 2.49.
Fans of the blue shirts would even admit that the young Isles outplayed the Rangers for the majority of Saturday’s game. They peppered shots on King Henrik and were denied even the surest of opportunities.
The Islanders looked faster, more physical and simply more cohesive as a team during this run and on Saturday. Leading the physicality is hits leader Matt Martin who crushes anyone wearing the opposite sweater.(Photo Credit: Flickr/Official New York Islanders)
Those that would argue that the Isles are better would point at the overall records. The two teams play the same teams throughout the year and with a game in hand; the Isles are 3 points better than Rick Nash and the Rangers.
The difference between the clubs would be the performance on the road. The Islanders sit at an impressive 12-5-2 away from Long Island while the Rangers dip dramatically away from the shadows of Penn Station at 8-11-2.
The Rangers are the better team at home. The Islanders struggles at the Coliseum were well documented and if not for a recent surge in their own building, they could have an embarrassingly low win total. They sit at 10-11-3 while the Rangers tout a 13-6-2. (Photo Credit: Flickr/ Neo-nimajus)
These numbers are for fans and experts to argue their point on which is the better team. The main achievement of the whole situation is that there is an actual debate for the first time in years.
It seems more likely with each win that the Islanders will clinch their first playoff appearance in 6 years. The question is where they will sit in terms of seeding. They are making a legitimate push towards the 5th seeded Maple Leafs and with a game against them on Thursday, they could gain some ground on Toronto.
Ideally, the Islanders’ fans would like to see them sit at the 6th seed where they will match up with an explosive but flawed Capitals team. The Isles took 2 of 3 meetings with DC and walked away with 5 of 6 possible points in match ups against them.
If they float up to the 5th seed, they would face a dangerous Bruins team that has the pedigree of a recent championship in their favor. The Isles lost 2 of 3 meetings with the Bruins and aside from their recent 2-1 road win; they have looked over matched against them.
While the Rangers fight for their playoff lives for a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Isles are sitting pretty with complete control of their own destiny.
When it comes to the question of who is better out of the Rangers and Islanders, it is not about the answer but about the question itself. Being involved in the conversation is a huge step and proof that the rebuild is now over. Is it possible that we will be remembering these times in 20 years when lifting up a #91 banner? Maybe.(Photo Credit: Flickr/IslesPunkFan)
The rebuild has been painful but the road has finally been paved. It is now time for the legitimate “Drive for 5”.