It’s been something we’ve avoided as of late after a winter that seemed to last forever. But ice remains a part of the New York fabric with two local teams vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup in this spring’s NHL playoffs.
By the end of the night on Wednesday, the New York Rangers could be looking at a 3-1 series lead over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to another run to the finals after falling in five games a year ago to the Los Angeles Kings.
As expected, Henrik Lundqvist has been strong for the blue shirts, allowing just six goals on 71 shots in the opening three games of the playoffs. Lundqvist had a strong season, finishing with 30 wins and a .922 save percentage, but missed 25 games after suffering a vascular injury when he took a puck to the throat. The Ranger goaltender, now in his tenth season in the Big Apple might have the greatest pressure to help bring the cup back to MSG and New York.
Some 50 miles north in the state another team is looking to hoist the cup this spring. If they do, it would be a perfect send-off for their final season on Long Island—and first time since 1983.
The Islanders were greeted to a raucous crowd on Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum where captain John Tavares scored 15 seconds into overtime to pull the Isles ahead 2-1 in the series. The Capitals responded Tuesday in game four on Long Island with an overtime win of their own. The series, now 2-2, is up for the taking.
Islanders’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been strong in the opening four games of the series sporting a .930 save percentage. Stirring the magic for the Isles so far though has been the offense of a core that’s been waiting for a legitimate shot to go deep. With Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey providing life to an Islander offense that also sat in the top-10 this season, the Islanders and their fans are looking to extend their run in this year’s post-season and in the process keep the Coliseum alive for a few more months before moving to Brooklyn next season.
If both can advance they’ll face each other in the second round of the post-season, setting up for a wild match-up as the blue shirts elite defense and goaltending take on a rising-star in Tavares.
The Islanders will return to the nation’s capital on Thursday looking to go up 3-2 in the series with a chance to close out the series back on Long Island.
With the East continuing to be wide open, both New York teams have as good of a chance as any to take a serious run at bringing the cup back to the Empire state for the first time since 1994—when the Rangers won it all.
The weather is heating up and fans of both teams are hoping for the same in the coming weeks of the NHL playoffs.