Remember the last time these two squads squared off? I sure do…
It's been almost 11 months since then, so what better way to kick off a new season than with a back-to-back between one of the most intense rivalries in the sport. And this year's version of the NY hockey feud may be one of the best yet. The Rangers are loaded with young talent and an arrow pointing sky high. The Islanders are coming off of a stellar playoff run and looking to prove they belong among the top tier of the division. Each franchise has plenty of reason for optimism at the same time which is a rarity. Combine that with a condensed schedule where they're gonna do battle eight times over the next four months and we've got ourselves a ticking timebomb among the teams & fans alike.
After every teams' first 56 games last year, the difference between 3rd & 6th in the Metro was 5 points. 4th through 6th slots were separated by one each. Points against bubble teams like I expect the Isles to be are huge in a shortened season. Losing to teams you have no realistic hope of leapfrogging or that have no hope of leapfrogging you is nowhere near as bad as the four-point swings each contest between those hovering around that final playoff invite are worth. Whatever angle you look from, the stakes are high starting with the very first game of the year.
Welcome to the big stage, K'Andre Miller!
The 20 year-old has been so good in camp that Coach Quinn nuked the Deangelo/Trouba experiment (which I wasn't a fan of) in less than a week to pair his rookie with Troubs instead. Sure he's still just a kid but at 6'5 210 it's safe to say he's physically set for the hard-hitting style Trotz's team brings to the ice. It's just crazy to think that his overall game is ready for top-four responsibility when he just made the switch from forward to defenseman about five years ago. There was no reason for DQ to force him into such a role unless he legitimately earned it though, so it's an exciting development at a position (left D) that was severely lacking this season. If he pans out as the defensive "praying mantis" Quinn described him as, Miller will be exactly what Trouba needs to play the way he did in Winnipeg and start earning those 8 sheets.
A couple other rooks will get their first tastes of the rivalry as well in Alexis Lafreniere and Igor Shesterkin (who still qualifies as a rookie). Lafreniere is obviously super-talented but he's got a little bit of sandpaper in his toolbox too. All eyes will be on the #1 overall pick as he makes his debut in a tilt that'll be as physically intense as any he's ever skated in. Meanwhile Shesterkin, who suffered a goin injury in a return-to-play exhibition vs the Isles that shelved him for the start of the Carolina series, will backstop one that counts this time with fellow Russian phenom Ilya Sorokin taking notes from the other bench. The start of the Laf vs Shesty internal Calder battle underscores the first of eight Blueshirts battles against their LI nemesis.
Fox, Lindgren & Kakko kick off their sophomore seasons. Panarin is following up a Hart-worthy campaign while Zibanejad looks to build upon a breakout year as one of the league's elite goal finishers. So much for fans to look forward to and we get to start the ride with a pair of W's against the Fishermen. Hockey is back baby! VIVA LA BLUESHIRTS & fuck you fat Frankie!!!!