The New York Rangers are winner of three in a row against teams that are not making the playoffs, but now are on Long Island to take on the New York Islanders to try and at least win one game against them this season. The Isles have owned the Rangers this season, going 3-0 in games that weren’t really close, with the Isles winning by three goals each time (6-3, 3-0, 4-1). The Isles are a lot like the Lightning –who also own the Rangers– in that they are young, incredibly skilled, and patched up a lot of holes this offseason.
The Isles now roll four lines without fear, and have 2 1/2 solid pairs on defense. Jaro Halak has solidified the net, and made the Isles into the Metropolitan Division leading team they are today. However, the Rangers are within four points, and a win tonight puts them within two points with two games in hand. Suffice it to say, if the Rangers want to win the division, a win tonight is critical.
What have they done lately?
The Isles are just 6-4-0 in their last ten games, but they have won four in a row and are starting to regain form after managing to deal with a bad injury to Kyle Okposo. The Isles manage to be one of the best puck possession teams by making smart, short passes to break out of the zone, and then establishing a solid forecheck. Since they are quick and skilled, they can make life hard on a lot of teams, the Rangers are no exception. The Isles are routinely above 54% FF:
When you see something like this, you expect that the 2-4-0 stretch they hit was the result of some bad puck luck, be it SH% or SV%. That shows in PDO, and we get that right away from the Isles, a sharp recent drop:
So now it’s a matter of isolating if it was goaltending or poor shooting (which is primarily luck driven and hard to replicate). We actually see that it’s a bit of both. Halak hit a rough stretch, posting sub-.900 SV% in four straight games (Isles went 2-2).
And here’s their SH% over that stretch:
This may have to do with Okposo’s injury, or it could just be the Isles coming back down to Earth after riding a 10% rolling average for a while. Either way, it’s better to be facing them when they are in a downward trend in shooting, even if goaltending is on the upward swing.
Like the Rangers, Isles head coach Jack 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.
PP1: McDonagh, Stepan, Nash, Brassard, Zuccarello
PP2: Boyle, Girardi, Kreider, Hayes, MSL
PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Klein, McDonagh, MSL
Cam Talbot 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 MSG."Game 55: Please, just once, beat the Islanders",