It’s never ideal to go to the shootout in the first game of a back-to-back, but that is where the New York Rangers find themselves ahead of tonight’s matchup with the New York Islanders. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. for the first game of the season series between the Rangers and that team with a retro jersey that has a mascot for frozen fish sticks on it.
The Islanders have started the season 2-4-0, which puts them at the bottom of the table in the Metropolitan Division. Their only wins have been against the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks — two teams who are not expected to do much of anything this season. They’ve been handed losses by the Florida Panthers (twice), the New Jersey Devils, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to a lopsided 7-1 win over the Ducks, the Isles have a positive goal differential (+1) heading into this game.
Through half a dozen games, the Rangers’ eternal rivals are in the bottom third of the league in xGF% (46.06); the Rangers are 10th with a 52.54 xGF%. So, this kind of start isn’t exactly surprising to see. Three meetings against top teams in the Atlantic in your first six games is a rough way to start a season. It’s also been something of a slow start for Ilya Sorokin, who comes into tonight with a 1-3-0 record and a .908 Sv%.
Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, and Brock Nelson are all off to strong starts — although it’s worth noting that both Barzal and Nelson are still searching for their first goals of the season. Lee leads the pack with 7 points — 3 goals and 4 assists. But the big story for this team is the goals coming from the blue line. Scott Mayfield, Robin Salo, and Noah Dobson each have two goals already. Will this blue line continue to score at this rate? Absolutely not, but it’s one storyline to keep in mind ahead of and during tonight’s game.
Another trend that won’t continue is the Islanders' 100% success rate at killing penalties. We all know how good the Rangers' power play is, but this will be a good test for them coming off of a difficult and draining loss to Alexandar Georgiev and the Colorado Avalanche. A confident PK unit against one of the top power plays in the NHL. For me, that’s the storyline to watch tonight.
All things considered, this is a game the Rangers should win — even with their tired legs. Jaroslav Halak is expected to be in goal, and that could make things interesting. With that said, these games are never easy which is what makes them so entertaining. Let’s hope we see the Rangers spoil the Islanders’ perfect record on the PK and put together a strong performance after last night’s shootout loss.