Well, here we are in the 4th quarter of what has been a long and winding season that sees the Rangers in their annual struggle for 8th and the Islanders planning their golf outings for April-June. These are two teams that have had three different identities over the season and here I'm gonna recap all of them to the best of my abilities
In the early part of the season the Rangers came out like gang busters; Derek Stepan had a hat trick in his first career game, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky got off to great starts, hell even Derek Boogaard scored a goal. All of this occurred as the Rangers began losing players faster than Tiger Woods lost sponsors. The big story surrounding the Rangers was how great they were doing being carried on the backs of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust and company. Hell, NHL.com was actually starting to pay attention to them.
For The Islanders however, things got off to about a good a start as they are used to, with DP missing most of the early months due to, get this, another injury (shocking right?) as well as the Islanders missing their best forward in Kyle Okposo and their best PP point man in Mark Streit, everyone was writing off the Isles before training camp started, and that included Charles Wang, when asked about his team's early injuries his reply was "Who?" Also throw on top of that a losing streak so bad that the Cleveland Cavaliers almost felt sorry for them and GM Garth Snow gave Scott Gordon the ax because he couldn't win with his replica of the 1980s Oiler lineup.
After the Christmas break and heading into the All Star break, the Rangers continued their remake of M*A*S*H with another player going down to injury almost every game it seemed. Almost every player on the roster was out with an injury at some point this season. As all of this was going on Marian Gaborik decided to become Griffin, The Invisible Man (Than you Wikipedia for that reference), and has struggled to put the puck in the net. Only doing so against teams that really could not be considered NHL caliber at the time and with the offensive woes beginning to bite the team in the ass the Rangers began to fall in the standings setting themselves up for their annual 8th seed push
The Islanders, figuring that they wouldn't be making a run for the playoffs, decided to star Trevor Gillies in their real life remake of Slap Shot and began beating down the Penguins, though Rick DiPietro did learn that he has a glass jaw to go with his tissue paper leg muscles. This circus act actually got the Islanders actually on ESPN, granted they were being laughed at, but now it was on a national level.
The Rangers are still being maddeningly inconsistent, being blown out of Anaheim while surviving against a much better Sharks team, and are still trying to find their game as they head into a crucial stretch of games to keep the playoffs dreams alive while the fan base decides whether or not to don the parachute or just jump off the cliff and not look back.
The Islanders have decided to play spoiler and actually look like a semi passable NHL team behind the solid goal tending of 6 string Al Montoya, yeah this guy, who makes his MSG debut tonight and an offense that seems to finally accept being built around Jon Tavares. It also doesn't hurt that Trevor Gillies has been locked back into his cage. The Islanders are making being in the 14th spot look semi repspectible by going on this little tear that they are on.
In my opinion the Rangers showed a brief glimpse of the team they are going to be and just got caught up with injuries, their star forward not being their star forward, and having a very young core of players.
The Isles on the other hand are finally starting to come into their own with young players like Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and John Tavares finally stepping up and leading this team. On one hand its good to see that the Islander/Ranger rivalry could become a rivalry based on the competitive nature of the teams and not just how close they are located to each other. On the other it's almost inevitable that Garth Snow will be forced to clean house because they won't be able to afford these young players.