The New York Rangers will face their long-time rivals the New York Islanders tonight at Madison Square Garden in a game that means a lot to one team but will be played hard by both. The Rangers are still clinging on to a playoff spot and while individual games are not necessarily “must wins” yet, they all collectively are imperative to the Rangers’ hopes of playing beyond the 82 game regular season. The Islanders’ playoff hopes are, for all intents and purposes, dead. However, after they’ve played much better since the All-Star break. While the Islanders are still a team the Rangers should beat, it won’t be as easy as their previous 7-2 domination in late December. Let’s look at the notes:
Henrik Lundqvist- Surprise! The Rangers are going to live and die by how the goaltending is. Lundqvist is obviously a great goaltender and will succeed against most teams, but he always brings something extra against Atlantic Division opponents. Against the Islanders, he’s 20-9-5 with a 2.11 GAA and .922 SV % in his career. The Islanders’ offense has actually been pretty solid this year so the defense and Henrik can not fall asleep tonight.
Al Montoya- The Rangers’ scouting department had dreams of Al Montoya standing in goal at Madison Square Garden, but I don’t think it was under these circumstances. The former Rangers 1st round draft pick, who essentially fell out of favor due to the arrival of Henrik, has had somewhat of a second chance with the Islanders after they acquired him with Roloson traded and Dipietro going down with the usual knee injury. Montoya is 7-2-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .926 SV % with the Islanders this year. You have to expect he’ll have a bit of extra fire tonight and will want to beat the Rangers.
Marian Gaborik- Which version of Gaborik will show up tonight? The one who decides to be invisible for the majority of his shifts? Or the one who flies around the offensive zone with the puck and makes it impossible for the opposition to even touch him, let alone take the puck off his stick. Gaborik has a history against the Islanders for whatever reason. In 19 career games against the Islanders, Marian has 12 goals. 9 of those games have been as a New York Ranger, and he has an astounding 8 goals in those 9 games, including a hat trick this season. For whatever reason Gaborik has scored most of his goals against weaker teams this season. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not good enough. For tonight, though, the Rangers need the two points badly, so by all means, Marian, feel free to continue that habit tonight.
Early Lead- The Islanders are 28th in the NHL in win percentage when giving up the first goal. Quite simply, score the first damn goal. The Rangers are unbelievably effective at collapsing in the slot and holding a lead. Get on the scoreboard first and the Rangers will have an unbelievably easier time this game. Especially because the Rangers are still undefeated this season when going into the second period with a lead.
Wolski is the healthy scratch tonight. He hasn’t been as effective the past few games compared to earlier. No big deal. Avery always comes out with extra energy in the Atlantic Division matchups, and with the way Christensen played against San Jose you can’t blame Tortorella for wanting to put him out there again. I will probably start puking if Al ****ing Montoya is standing on the Garden ice celebrating a victory. If for only that reason alone, please do not lose this damn game, Rangers.