Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Rivalry: Islanders vs. Rangers III

From the desks of:

The Rivalry
Islanders lead season series 2-1
I - NYI 7; NYR 5
II - NYR 5; NYI 0

Islanders   4
Rangers    3

S'up!  Guess who's finally paying attention ...

Baseball withdrawal effects me differently from season to season.  This year hit me especially hard, and took a little longer to shake.  But for good reason, I was compounded with Red Sox hangover.  To that affect, I'll only say it's a family matter ... and man(!) was it a lot of fun.  Otherwise, it usually takes me about three weeks during a normal year to start shaking my pom-poms over football.  This year for a change I was actually engaged by Week One.  As the days go by I tend to slip into a hockey frame of mind somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, with basketball not far behind.  This year, no such thing.  Basketball was first to regain my attention, I'd say about a month ago.  Halfway through the hockey season and only now am I joining the fray.  I can not explain it, that's just me.  As the state or condition of my respective teams of interests have no bearing on when I mentally check in.  I any event, here I am ...

N.Y. ISLANDERS: Hot to Trotz.

Imagine what could have been in 2012-2013; imagine winning that first round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Imagine following up in 2013-2014 with another upwards leap in the standings, as opposed to falling flat on their ass and failing to make the playoffs.  Then imagine back-to-back 100-point seasons and actually advancing beyond the second round.  Such were the best years under former coach Jack Capuano, whom was fired midway through the 2016-2017 season.  The Islanders predominant deficiencies throughout this era lay in net and along the blue line, which invariably meant Garth Snow, with head coach coming in a not too distant third.

Enter Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz.  While on the one hand Lamoriello has yet to dramatically impact the active roster, Barry Trotz has taken essentially the same personnel Doug Weight coached last season and transformed them into the one of the top defensive teams in the league.  For the moment, the Islanders are tied with the Boston Bruins for fewest goals allowed.  With Thursday's 4-3 victory over the Rangers, the Islanders move up two notches into seventh place of the Eastern Conference standings.  They improve their record to 24-14-4, which is only slightly better than last year's 21-18-4 with John Tavares still in uniform.

And there's the rub ...

While Tavares gets to don his Maple Leaf pajamas every night, the arrival of Barry Trotz is a perfect instance where coaching and structure are making a world of difference.  Puts both Weight and Capuano in different perspective, to say the least.

N.Y. RANGERS: You Can Not Be Disappointed With What You Do Not Expect.

The Rangers last year issued a statement saying they were going into full rebuild mode.  So why is everyone treating this season like some apocalypse?  Did some not get the message?  That being said, I will be utterly disappointed if Jeff Gorton does not continue the purge he initiated last season.  As Mats Zuccarello said on MSG channel after Thursday night's game, "This sucks!"

Yes it does, and that's why Gorton needs to continue full bore into this rebuild.  In the meantime, I'll bide my time concerning myself with what will become of last year's blue line acquisitions: Rob O'Gara, Yegor Rykov, Ryan Lindgren, and Libor Hajek.

I'll say this much about David Quinn: the Rangers temperament is much improved.  Despite a 17-19-7 record, I find the post-Alain Vigneault Rangers quite refreshing.  Their improved level of physicality and overall grittiness has not gone unnoticed.

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