The second half of the season is upon us, and the New York Rangers are local tonight, playing against the Metro Division leading New York Islanders. The game is still on –presumably because the game is on NBC– despite the blizzard conditions yesterday and this morning that buried half of Long Island under two feet of snow.
The Isles took both games at MSG in rather convincing fashion, and now the Rangers are going to look to exact revenge. The Isles are shorthanded, without Kyle Okposo for 6-8 weeks, which is a significant blow for them. However the Rangers are hit by the “under the weather” bug and their forward lines are a game time decision.
The Isles are six point up on the Rangers at the moment, but the Rangers have two games in hand. A win tonight –in another precious four point swing game– puts the Rangers four back with two games in hand. All told, a win tonight puts the Rangers within striking distance of the Isles.
What have they done lately?
The Isles aren’t going away, and they are in contention to be the top seed in the East. They are 7-3-0 over their last 10 games, and are 16-4-0 at home this season. Although the Isles allow a boatload of goals, they outscore and out-possess the opposition to a +22 goal differential. They are one of the best in the league in terms of possession as well, with their rolling 10 game average still well above the 50% mark (Isles are the top line here).
In the above, compared with the Rangers, the Isles are by far the superior possession team. They have been consistently better than the Rangers throughout the entire season, and sit at above 54% so far, while the Rangers are dropping under 50% for their ten game rolling average.
The above chart is the comparable PDOs, with both teams riding extreme hot streaks that have their PDOs spiking. The Rangers have falling back to Earth a bit (they are the top line), but their last three wins have seen great goaltending, which is the primary driver of PDO. The Isles have been riding a much longer wave of great PDO, finally getting above the median of 100.
Many are expecting the Isles to collapse, they won’t.
Like the Rangers, Capuano has the Isles running a 1-2-2 forecheck and a 1-1-3 lock, which they use aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (e.g., score, time left in period, etc.). In the defensive zone, the Isles are bit different than the Blueshirts. Capuano has them playing man-on-man up high, but collapse into a zone defense when the puck is down low. On special teams, the Isles rotate between a 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 power play and a hybrid penalty kill.
Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuck
Calvin de Haan-Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey-Brian Strait
PP1: Tavares-Nelson-Nielsen-TBD (usually Okposo)-Boychuk
PK: Cizikas, Grabner, Hamonic, Strait, Nelson, Strome, Nielsen, de Haan, Boychuk, Hickey, Clutterbuck
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in net.
Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed)
PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Klein, McDonagh, MSL
Henrik Lundqvist is in net.
Be sure to check out our ticket link if you’re looking for tickets to the game. Game time is 7pm on NBCSN.