The New York Rangers did exactly what they needed to do on Monday night, when the lowly Islanders came to town. The 29th place Islanders had actually mounted together a couple of wins, and since they always play the Rangers tough, they could not afford to be taken lightly. After the first twenty minutes of play, it looked like the evening was slated to be a classic game in which the Rangers played down to an inferior opponent, as the score was 2-2 and both goals they allowed were soft. However, when push came to shove in the next forty minutes, the Rangers were able to pound the Islanders into submission with a 7-2 defeat.
The Rangers, who lost the first meeting of the season between the two teams, before sweeping a home-and-home series earlier this month, had not blasted their crosstown rivals with a score like that in some time, because whenever these two teams meet, records seem to have no bearing. The last few seasons, when the Islanders have been bad, they always seem to play well against the Rangers. Meanwhile, in the mid-2000’s, when the Rangers were bad and Islanders were good, it was the Rangers who carried the play most of the time, including a six game season series sweep in 2003/04.
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils will be their opponent, a team that sits in last place in the league, with a horrendous 9-24-2 record and a -51 goal differential. The superstar they acquired this summer, Ilya Kovalchuk, has only eight goals and ten assists, and is a mind-numbing -26. The Rangers, if they want to succeed tonight, will have to look at this team as the Devils of old. They must not see their poor record or nonexistent offense which averages less than a goal per game. They must not see Martin Brodeur as an aged, mediocre goaltender with a 5-17-1 record, with a goals against average over three, they must see him as the winningest goaltender in NHL history.
The Rangers have a bad habit of playing poor against poor teams, but a Rangers-Devils game is anything but ordinary, and now that Brodeur is back, you can expect Sean Avery to be mixing it up with him as he usually does, and add David Clarkson to that as well. The Rangers need every point they can get if they want to continue this surprising run. They cannot afford to take a game off against the worst team in the league. They must attack them like they attacked the Islanders, and show no mercy. The Devils will be looking to play spoiler, and see a better Rangers team go down, but they cannot let that happen.
Henrik Lundqvist needs to be on top of his game, while Marian Gaborik needs to build on his performance Monday night, where he scored a goal and added an assist. I would also like to see Chris Drury rewarded for his hard work since he returned from injury, with a goal. Alex Frolov finally looks to be skating with a jump in his step, and they will need that the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Mats Zuccarello has been flying all over the place, showing some skill and even taking the body. I expect him to remain with the team for the rest of this season.