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Hard to get excited about Islanders and Rangers

Leslie Monteiro



Watching the Rangers play the Islanders Thursday night, it felt like more of an exhibition game than an important regular season game. That’s the way it goes when both teams are playing like they will be absent in this year’s postseason.

A team had to win because hockey rules insist a team has to win a game. For the record, the Islanders took a 3-0 victory over the Rangers at Barclays Center.

The Islanders have won sixth straight and 10th time in their 11 matchups against their metropolitan-area rivals. Bragging rights and hanging around in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and Metropolitan Division race were the only thing at stake for the winner. That’s not saying much.


It’s hard to call this a rivalry when both teams are mediocre at best. It’s hard to get excited when the math says both teams are in it rather than their play. The Islanders somehow have the last wild-card spot with 64 points after a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night at PNC Arena on struggling goaltender Thomas Greiss’ 45 saves.

Let’s not get carried away about the Islanders’ modest two-game winning streak. It does not mean all their issues are solved because their defense and their goaltending put on an efficient performance the last two games. It only masks their struggles briefly. If the defense and goaltending were so good, they would be one of the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division race and they wouldn’t be fighting for their playoff lives as a wild-card team.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow needs to get couple of good stay-at-home defensemen by the trade deadline for his team to have a chance to make the playoffs and go far. His job security could be depending on it on the heels of Islanders fans raising money to buy a billboard saying “Snow Must Go”.  Getting a goaltender will be hard since good ones are hardly available, but there’s no excuse not to get one.

Unless the Islanders address their deficiencies, it’s hard to get excited. They can only win so many games by scoring four or five goals while giving up five or six. It’s hard to believe they will be a playoff team with the way this roster is constructed.

The Rangers are a mess all around. They haven’t scored much this season. Their defense has been a sieve. Henrik Lundqvist has been mediocre. They have found more ways to lose than win.

They often look slow on nights they play against the faster teams. They often put on uninspired performances this season. They have been unwatchable. It’s no wonder the Rangers’ braintrust is ready to start rebuilding. They know this team has went as far as they could with this roster with no Stanley Cup to show for it.

The Rangers are trying to win some games to prevent management from executing their plan, but they made their case for themselves to lean with a listless performance against a struggling team Thursday night.

It’s hard to believe management will keep the core around just for a brief winning streak. They are smart enough to not react or make an emotional decision. They have a plan, and they will likely execute, which they should.

The only New York City-area team that has a shot to make the playoffs is the Devils. They have consistently won all season instead of fading. They have managed to shine in what is a long season. No one can say the same about the Islanders and Rangers.

Maybe the Islanders can make something out of it, but that remains to be seen. Snow knows he has to do something to get fans off his back, not to mention he has to convince impending free agent John Tavares that he is the guy that can build a Stanley Cup championship team.

It’s hard to trust the Islanders. They have given no reason for anyone to believe. For Islanders fans to say these last two wins were unexpected, it shows the state of their team right there.

The Rangers have played like a team that wants their season to be over. They haven’t been good all year. There’s a reason no one in town has been excited about them all year.

Basically, both teams have shown they are mediocrity see, mediocrity do.

No reason to invest time on watching both teams.

Leslie Monteiro is a syndicated sports columnist who writes about the Tri-State area teams for the Upstate Courier. He is based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and can be reached on Twitter @MongoGoesInSane.