The race just got hotter … and it will boil Saturday on Long Island


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The Rangers had a day off on Thursday, a much-needed breather and a rare two-day break between games in this hacked-off 48-game season.

And their day off couldn’t have been worse. They had no control over what went on Thursday, and what went on was that the Rangers got no help.

The Islanders won in Boston. Ottawa won in Philadelphia. Winnipeg beat Florida. The Rangers lost two points in the standings to each of those teams. The Senators and Islanders are now two points ahead of the Rangers, who have eight games remaining. Winnipeg moved into a tie in points with the eighth-place Rangers, who have two games in hand on the Jets and one on the Islanders.

Worse, probably, than what Thursday wreaked on the Rangers is what it did for the Islanders, who are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 and host the Rangers Saturday night.

I’ve said this before, that I don’t believe in the Islanders as I once did. I think they are one great player, and a bunch of good ones and a number of borderline ones and a hot goalie. Perspective: They have had a fabulous season and the Rangers have been riddled in mediocrity and yet they had the same record before last night.

But the Islanders are playing with house money, just letting it fly, having a blast, able to sustain emotion and to pressure opponents, and daring foes to try to match their intensity.

The Rangers’ desperation is of another ilk, one of un-met expectations, disappointments and — that word again — mediocrity. They have rarely sustained for close to the requisite 60 minutes the type of fire the Islanders now regularly bring. They have tons of the weight of pressure; the Islanders not even an ounce.

So I have a hard time conjuring up the Rangers being able to tame the Islanders in what will be a loud Nassau Coliseum, in the type of game that crappy old building hasn’t seen in years, in a rivalry that for decades now has been the Islanders’ Stanley Cup and an inconvenience for the Rangers.  How many times have we seen the Rangers fail to match the Islanders’ intensity from the start of a game? Not that I doubt the Rangers can win. But just that I think it will take one of their best games of this season to do so, and I don’t know if they have it in them at this point in time.

The Rangers are on a little roll of their own, even if it is only in the book-keeping ledger. They are 4-1-1 in their last six, with nine of the last possible 12 points. That, I think, needs an asterisk of explanation. They beat Winnipeg handily. They trounced the Penguins a day after Pittsburgh lost its 15-game winning streak and hours after the Rangers remade a chunk of their roster at the trade deadline.

Two nights later the Rangers played their best game of the streak and perhaps their best game of the season, and lost in a shootout to the Penguins. Then they played a lousy game in Carolina and Henrik Lundqvist stole it. That was followed by a home-and-home with Toronto, a series the Rangers had a chance to sweep and/or be swept. They were horrific defensively in Toronto yet came from behind to tie it late, only to cough it up 39 seconds later. And they were bad and good and bad and good in spots in the rematch, a shootout win.

So the 4-1-1 has been a microcosm of the Rangers’ up and down season.

And on Saturday, off the L.I.E., we will see what kind of backbone they have … or have we already seen it?

John Tavares photo by Getty Images.

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  1. ThisYearsModel on

    The Islanders dominated Boston last night. The score should have been 5-1 or so. Saturday will be tough.

  2. >>And on Saturday, off the L.I.E.

    Nassau Coliseum is off the Meadowbrook State Parkway, no?

  3. The fishsticks are not about to fold on their own…so we’re going to have to match their intensity and snap them in half Saturday night with some vintage captain Callahan forechecking and the king reminding those kids why he rules. LGR !!!

  4. Question:

    If B-Rich gets off to another horrid start next season, is Sather allowed to use an amnesty buy-out during the season?

  5. I’ll be watching on gamecenter, but i think i might have my eyes closed praying to King Henrik to keep it close and hope that we can beat them in regulation.

  6. 2013 and 2014 off-seasons are the windows for buyouts. I think given that Richards will have next season to prove his worth, or we hand the top3 lines over to Stepan, Miller and Brassard.

  7. JBytes, everything on Long Island is off the LIE.

    This should be one of those games the Rangers could really, REALLY use some puck luck. As Carp said, I do not see, nor have I seen, the collective level of intensity from this Rangers team that we have seen from the team coached by that skinny guy with the hair plugs.

    If the all of these Rangers had brought that level or collective will in half their games this year (that we saw in most of their games last year), this game wouldn’t be the huge game that it’s become.

  8. I think the Fishsticks are better as a team than most are making them out to be…they did dominate the decimated B’s last night, and I don’t know anyone at the start of the season who picked them for any position outside of the cellar. Ranger-Fishstick games are always intense, and has been a long time since they have had playoff implications. LGR!

  9. Actually this is the toughest game left on the rangers schedule. It would be nice to knock the little boy gorton’s off their haughty peg. I actually think they have a ton of pressure on them saturday. There won’t be 60% Ranger fans in the box this time and if our boys get a lead and Henrik is shutting the door, it could be lights out.

    Honestly, i just dont wanna be irked.

  10. Sioux-per-man on

    You are spot on Carp. That is EXACTLY what it feels like! Boston looked old an slow last night. Rangers need to counter with speed & GRIT! The defense needs to shut down its best player in front of Hank!

    I’m going with a Henrik shutout! Along with Clowe beat down.

  11. Sioux-per-man on

    It really depends on what team the Ranger show up with. If it shows up with the team that beat Pittsburgh 6-1 this team will make the playoffs and take the 6th spot.

    If they show up with the team that lost to Florida, then . . . . .

  12. Next 5 games – Islanders, Philly, Florida, Buffalo, Devils.

    This is our chance to pull away from the race for 8th by beating the teams around us. 6th spot is what we want.

  13. the rangers will need some luck down the stretch here to get in. yes you can talk about winning your own games but lets be honest we are not going 8-0. to have nights like last night where 4 games dont go our way this could spell major trouble.

    in watching the isles over the last month they are clearly a better team then our rangers. hate to say it because it pains me but they forecheck they play with passion, they can score and they get play from all lines in some way or not and throw in the fact nabakov is in the zone

    i will be there tom night with 3 islanders fans so could get real ugly for me.

    i see the isles embracing the pressure of the race

    can the rangers play with the same energy they do over last 8 games remains to be seen.

    message to rangers tom play from ahead. dont start the first period like the other night

  14. islanders are for real. I would be shocked if the rangers won Saturday. Right now the islanders are a better team than the rangers and I will go one step further and say that the islanders are going to be a tough out in the playoffs. I see the islanders going to the second round, rangers, they will be 1 and done. I’m not being a negative person at all here. I’m basing my analyst on what I’ve seen out of these two teams play on the ice.

  15. also, rangers are still a flawed team and it starts with Brad Richards, he is bringing the rangers down.

  16. Cross Check Charlie on

    I see Carp has embraced my favorite saying for this season – mired in mediocrity. The trades don’t seem to have made any effect except for that one game.

    It’s still a poorly constructed team where they have one star forward, which I guess is done to put people in the seats.

    I wish the team had a real GM instead of Mr. I-rode-Gretzky-and-Messier’s-coattails-all-my-undistinguished-career.

  17. I wish sather would get lost, nothing has changed, 13 years and still the same song and dance. I cherish the day sather is no longer the GM of the rangers.

  18. Probably his stupid sleeping problem that inspired every single team we are competing against to win their game. Thanks for nothing, @BriBrows22.

  19. LOL Manny.

    tomb said something very intelligent last night. Since there’s a salary cap, the Rangers should flex their financial muscle in staffing, collegiate scouting, international scouting. A team can get high ceiling players from abroad comparatively lesser prices. The Bruins were hot on this guy Carl Soderberg for 3 years before they finally signed him a couple days ago (though he may not be able to come to the U.S. this season because of the Swedish Hockey Federation).

  20. Great write-up, Carp.


    From now on i am done blaming players for anything. Tortorella is where i will be placing my blame now.

  21. That’s reassuring, CCCP. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

    Tiki, that Swedish Hockey Federation is really something. It might dissuade teams from signing Swedish players and hurt their guys in the long fun. After the trouble multiple Swedish players have encountered attempting to join the NHL lately. Sheesh. Police State over there.

  22. Tort certainly didn’t have them prepared to play last night.


  23. I agree with you Carp. I don’t have a great feeling about Saturday’s game. For the Isles this is REALLY a game about respect and they will be flying. Taveras is probably the best hockey player in NY right now and he gives the Rangers fits. They win if for some reason Nabokov has an off night, but otherwise, I see this like a 4-1 win for NYI.

    BTW, Boston has had very similar problems as we have with scoring issues. Plus I think Rask has come down to earth a bit. I see them as a team that could make an early exit in the playoffs (and of course, me saying that, means they go to the Finals :) )

  24. gotta say, regarding the discussion last night about Tort, I think he’s a good coach. However, I think his approach works well with some players and fails to work with other players. With regards to the Jack Adams crap, yes absolutely Tort got the maximum out of a team with a shortage of talent, but much of last season’s success was due to Henrik and good luck (Id like to know what our record in 1 goal games or 2 goal games that included an empty netter was last year). You cant expect that luck to continue, and the Rangers didnt, so they went out and upgraded the roster with the Nash acquisition.

  25. I will say it over and over again: The system that the Rangers play doesn’t maximize “talent” in the pure sense of the word. A guy like Nash is the _perfect_ type of talent for this team because he has size and can take over physically. But the system maximizes hard work, smart defense, puck luck and wearing the other team down. Therefore, we are better off with Moore, Dorsett, Clowe and Brassard, guys that get the system and can maximize the cycle in a way that turns into goals, than we were with Gaborik. Because a guy like that was getting lost in this system this season.

  26. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdink in little less then half an hour so all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape, after I kill count Rugen.

  27. that makes perfect sense, Manny. But you dont find that frustrating that Torts cant make it work with a world-class talent like Gaborik.

    I saw that #68 on the Bruins last night, and my goodness, he’s still got it. He had one Isles defender on his left shoulder, and he just shoo’d the defender off of him. He just easily dismissed this defender with his perfect body positioning and superior strength.

  28. Cross Check Charlie on

    But, Manny, you still have to have guys that can score. You have to have a Toews to go with Kane and Malkin to go with Crosby, etc. You can’t just rely on one top flight forward and a bunch of grinders because teams can clamp down on that one player and then you’re just hoping for a lucky goal in overtime to win.

  29. I’m not, Charlie. I was talking about Nash and how he is a perfect top flight scorer for this team. I think we might need one more finisher OR Callahan to pick it up combined with a guy like Brassard netting a few.

    Last season’s team created scoring chances out of the grinding cycle. Before the trade, this team was not. Each forward line, to me, looked like 2 guys grinding and one guy attempting to set up an offensive triangle weak side. Unfortunately the puck never got to the guy in the weak side slot.

    Now the boys are actually creating some opportunities. If Clowe can remain near the net and Girardi can remember how to play defense, the Rangers _might_ be OK. But really this is a work in progress.

  30. Sioux-per-man on

    Gaby’s gone, and he wasn’t lighting the lamp.

    So we traded him for old fashion, hard nose, grind you out in the corners GRIT, with an upside in Moore.

    As big as a fan of Gaborik as I am, I think this team WILL go farther in the playoffs with the toughness they brought in. This is more of a playoff team post Gaborik, than pre.

    Saturday will prove it. Speed and skill only gets you so far, having a team built like the Islanders & Tampa will not WIN championships.

    Ok we might not go 8-0, but I think this team finishes 7-0-1!!! This team will answer the bell on Saturday.

  31. We could talk about #68 and how he would be the 2nd best forward on our team behind Nash if we had bothered to inquire on him.

  32. Let’s talk about sex, baby
    Let’s talk about you and me
    Let’s talk about all the good things
    And the bad things that may be…

  33. WRONG. Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.


  34. Thats silly, Sioux. More of a playoff team without Gaborik than with him. He played with a busted shoulder last playoffs. In the playoffs, it’s more difficult to score than in the regular season (Im not sure if the statistics back me up on this), teams clamp down, clog the middle of the ice, goals are harder to come by. And for a team like ours that already has enormous trouble scoring…

  35. The Rangers play a 2-1-2 aggressive forechecking system. Most of the time, especially with the bottom six, the Forwards play a stack on top of the 2-1-2. Sometimes that system appears to break down into an aggressive overload. That’s where I have a problem. Why you might ask? Because the Rangers don’t win the puck battle. When you have your defenders pinned wide against the boards (which is a more aggressive offensive system which also helps prevent strongside breakouts) you leave the middle of the ice open. That’s how our D-Guys get beat allowing forwards in behind them. That happens a lot. And it’s a massive effing problem. Winning puck battles is the single most important aspect of the aggressive forechecking system utilized by Mr. John Tortarella. If you lose the puck battles you will lose the game.


  36. …and they haven’t been winning too many battles this season so why not adjust the system? stubborn Mr. Tortorella…

  37. Gee whiz am I detecting a sensible reaction to Islander fortunes from more unbiased Ranger fans?

  38. I understand what you’re saying, CCCP. I get it. And I don’t completely disagree with you. But now, with this new squad, I don’t think it’s time to abandon ship. It’s not a bad idea to play Playoff Style hockey year round. It really helps your team be prepared for a deep Cup Run (or whatever term they use these days). Just, overall, I don’t think that when something doesn’t work immediately, in a shortened season and without any pre-season or camp of any sort, I don’t think that is the criteria upon which you change your team philosophy and team identity.

    They really don’t have the personnel to play another style. And I know you guys want Krieder and Miller up here but that just makes the Rangers the Oilers. And that doesn’t work.

  39. Sioux-per-man on

    Tiki – pre Gaborik this was a soft easy team to play against. Florida came to town and beat us!!! .500 hockey club. Is what I ment by this.

    After the trade we beat Pittsburgh 6-1, and played our best game of the year the next game, even though we lost in a shoot out.

    That’s all I’m saying. This team NEEDED to get HARDER. Now with Clowe, a health Asham, Moore type hits against Cooke, Brassard experience over Miller/Kreider, not sure if we see Dorsett in the playoffs – but it’s possible.

    Is a better playoff team. Harder to play against. Then a Gaborik team that isn’t scoring. Gaborik isn’t using his speed like Hagelin to chase down pucks, and he has never hit a fly on the ice, and he wasn’t brought here to do that, he was brought here to score 40 goals. Did he have 10 this year?

  40. You used 2 games against Pittsburgh as the example to prove your point. You dismissed Gaborik’s entire career with the Rangers. Thats just silly. Youre blaming the presence of Gaborik for the team being soft. But what about last year when this team played each game like it was their last, and made their opponents work for everything en route to a Conference Finals.

  41. Manny,

    I agree with you. The problem is though, I thought we could win with the other style of play, the build offense off the rush style that Gabby played so well. The team before the trade was built more that way…but….our coach stubbornly refused to play that style. And interestingly, in TB, he had players who played the other style. BTW how did Gabby score 40+ goals playing the grinding style last year and this year he can’t? You know why? Because the system last year had him getting open a lot.

    So now we have players who play last year’s style. If the coach didn’t want to change styles, then they made the right move. I guess, like many are saying is that we need another scorer who can play that style. You know who would have been perfect? Jagr. And he probably wouldn’t have cost us that much. The key to me will be if we can get a second line going. I know it’s a broken record, but the key player if this team is gonna make a run is Richards. If he can get his head out of his butt, the team can do some damage. The good thing is, we KNOW he’s been a great playoff player, so maybe he’ll turn it on then. But I’m not hopeful.

  42. Sioux-per-man on

    Right on Manny! If only Kreider to lay a hit on someone, and play FEARLESS hockey, I think with his speed and scoring he could be the real deal. He has not been that player. Was not scoring, and wasn’t safe defensively. Miller has flashes of it, but at 20 just doesn’t have the experience to stick THIS year. Had he had more games like his first one, and had 20 pts – then yes he would be on the 3rd line.

    They will both be Blueshirts someday. But they should be playing playoff Hockey for the Whale and proving their stripes down there first.

  43. Sioux-per-man on

    Had Richard and Gaborik been playing to their potential we would be in this spot today!!! We should be in Pittsburgh’s. But where not!

    Richards still “dazed and confused” and Gaborik only scored in 5 games.

    This is a BETTER team NOW – for this year!!!

  44. Disagree. Many players havent matched last year’s performance this season. And we’re just not getting the good luck we got last season.

  45. Sioux-per-man on

    Now the Islanders have their last 5 games on the Road. I see them losing to the Rangers, Leafs, Jets, and maybe their 4th road game in Philly.

    Islander are going to win 8 more points and finish at 54pts. Rangers need 9 points to finish ahead of them.

  46. Czechthemout!!! on

    Ok, lets take it easy with the Gabby was traded for more grit stuff. Brassard is not a gritty player. Moore looks like a good future number 5, thats it. Dorsett has not played yet so he may provide some of he grit you speak off. Will see.

    Clowe had nothing to do with the CBJ trade. Clowe does provide grit and toughness but he is very slow. Playing him with Richards and Boyle guarantees they will be the slowest line in the league and will never score.

    It all comes down to the coaching. On paper, they are a strong team. They are however still missing another goal scorer and an offensive dman who can shoot and carry the puck. That said, they have the talent to be a top 4 team in the conference but are not. Many on here agrgue that Torts did a great job last year. To an extent, I agree. But at least half if not more of the reason for their success was the goalie. They caught lightning in a bottle for about a two and a half month run. Absent that, they were a .500 team in cluding the playoffs. They have been a .500 team throughout Torts tenure here. Today, they are a much better team than they were 3 years ago, yet they are still riding their goalie who has been great mostly since he has been here. At some point, the coach has to be held accountable for the lack of progress absent a two month run, which to me was an aberration.

    I wont mention the idiot GM because he will never be fired for his piss poor drafting and dumb free agent signings.

  47. Jeff in South Dakota on

    I’m putting on the foil for Saturday night; how about you? Eddie Shore?

  48. Sioux-per-man on

    Rangers have a softer schedule 8 games.

    Islanders, Flyers, Panthers, Sabres, Devils, Panthers, Canes, Devils.

    Flyers, Panthers, Sabres, Canes all ROAD game WINS!

    Fishsticks & Devils the only teams that could take a point off the table.

    Still we win 6 games, and take a Bettman point for 13pts we are in the playoffs!!!

    Personally I don’t care who we play! We are going to win!!!

  49. Sioux-per-man on

    That leave a game we could drop along the way, and a overtime/shootout lose.

    13 out of 16 pts, puts us ahead of the fishsticks!!!

  50. Sioux-per-man on

    The water will be boiling on Saturday!!!

    This blog will boil over if the Rangers lose, that’s for sure!

    I just don’t see it happening!!!

  51. Sioux-per-man on

    That’s why they play the games!!!

    Anythings possible, any team can win on any giving night!!

  52. Rob in Beantown on

    I have an unscientific sinking feeling the Rangers lose tomorrow night. I watched some of the Islanders-Bruins game and I just don’t see the Rangers winning if the Islanders play with the same intensity Saturday. Hope I’m wrong.

  53. Doodis Machetto on

    Maybe the fact that this game actually means something to the Rangers will help prevent them from getting their doors blown off in the first 30 minutes.

  54. doodie

    prepare yourself now as we will finish behind the isles in the standings. the question is will we finish 8th and still get in with them.

    sorry folks the isles are going to the playoffs. face it they are clicking on all cylinders right now.


    last 5 games for isles on road

    at toronto
    at winnipeg
    at carolina
    at phil
    at buffalo

    too expect anything from car phil and buffalo the last week of the season come on get a grip. the isles have been great on the road all year and if they need to win in phil(who is DONE) and buffalo(who will have there bags packed last day) not happening

    rangers jets devils one spot in my mind

  55. going tom night with three isles fans and me. expect to be down 2-0 halfway through the 1st.

    my question for this ranger group do they realize even with ranger fans in building tom what kind of seen they are walking into.

    2007 shanny in ot wins it last march rangers were 7th isles 10th at time both made playoffs.

    1993 early april on a friday night turgeon scores his 40th goal in ot at garden and rangers lose 11 of final 12 miss playoffs

  56. I expect a tight first 12 minutes, then 5 minutes of Rangers turning it on, then a lost puck battle results in a turnover and someone like Nielsen scores on us. 0-1 Isles headed into 2.

  57. Doodis Machetto on

    I love the eric/Sioux point/counterpoint.

    I definitely lean eric, but I’m not a staunch ericrat.

    I just can’t understand how anyone could ever be a full blown ReSiouxblican.

  58. SO let’s make a scale

    eric ———————–Sioux

    Eric is a 1 and Sioux is a 10.

    I would label myself a 6-7.

  59. Carp is Richards injured or having motor skills problems? He falls down a lot , with nobody near him. it has to be more than lack of confidence.

  60. You’re really losing it today, CCCP. Why don’t you rank yourself on the erix/Sioux scale..

  61. Morning all,

    Great to see you’re all standing behind your team as they approach what is probably the biggest game of their season so far. Geez.

    Give the negative stuff a rest.

    They’re not exactly playing the 1976 Canadiens, people. Get real.

    This is a completely winnable game for the Rangers.

  62. They are in this position because they played their night off scared.

    And now hell’s broke loose in Huntington and captain Gordon deals the cards.

  63. I think if you asked Mrs. Manny she would say I was a 15 but I think I’m more like a 6-7.

  64. Now I’ve seen it all re: “fan analysis”.

    “Carp, do you think Richards has an issue with his motor skills”!

    Dr. Carp Head of Neurological Assessment At the Lohud Clinic, how say you as I pick myself off the floor?

    Would you consider posing this question to Torts? LMAO!

  65. Jim Cerny ?@JimCerny 8m Sad picture in #NYR dressing room: after speaking w/reporters Brad Richards by himself, hat pulled low, sitting hunched in cornerRetweeted by The Broadway Hat

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