On January 13, the Islanders and Rangers met for the second time this season. The Islanders came out of the game with a 3-0 victory, shutting the Rangers out at MSG for the first time since 1975. With the Islanders in first place and the Rangers playing well, the rivalry has gained juice that it hasn't had in a long time.
Kids Coming of Age
The Islanders have really seen the fruits of their rebuild this season as Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee have all become key members of the team. Nelson came on strong out of the gate, but has cooled down a bit in recent games. He is second on the team in goals with 15 behind just John Tavares and fourth on the team in points behind Tavares, Okposo and Ryan Strome. Meanwhile, Strome who had a slower start to the season than Nelson has really come on of late. His hot play has propelled him to third on the team in points with 33 in 46 games. His skills were seen in the Islanders game on January 10th on his assist on Matt Martins goal. From just inside the offensive zone, with Martin breaking down the middle, Strome sent a beautiful pass in Martins direction and Martin stuck his stick out and got the Islanders second goal of the night. While Anders Lee hasn't put up the stats of Strome or Nelson, he has come up with many game winning goals this season. One attribute to his game that he has really fine tuned that others haven't is tipping in front of the net. Lee is excellent at that and it has really come in handy for him. These kids will be a key part of the Islander vs Ranger rivalry this season and for many seasons to come.
Islanders Rangers Rivalry
People outside New York may not realize this, but Islander vs Ranger games can get just as intense as any other huge rivalry game in the NHL like the Battle of Ontario or Montreal vs Boston. With hockey being the fourth sport in New York, the rivalry doesn't get the coverage it should which causes it to get overlooked on the more national scene. The rivalry has lost some luster on the ice in recent years due to the Islanders lackluster play. However, it didn't lose anything among fans who still created a great atmosphere at most games. This year though, it is different from years past as the Islanders sit in first place in the division with 63 points and the Rangers sit five points behind them. For the first time in a long time, an Islander Ranger game will be on the mind of a typical New Yorker today, not just the hockey fans.