Islanders and Rangers: keep your enemies close

Katie Cresser, Copy Editor

The New York Rangers and the New York Islanders have one of the most intense rivalries in sports — or do they? Six meetings a season and less than thirty miles be­tween Madison Square Garden and the Nassau Veterans Me­morial Coliseum have fostered a bitter hatred between the two New York teams. However, each team experienced their ups and downs, causing the so-called “Battle of New York” to change over the years.

In the late 1970s and ear­ly 1980s, the upstart Islanders had a leg up on the older, more established Rangers. One fa­mous incident included Island­ers defenseman Denis Potvin, who checked Rangers forward Ulf Nilsson, breaking Nils­son’s ankle. From that moment on, Rangers fans rained down chants of “Potvin sucks,” and a tradition was born. To this day, no matter the opponent, Rangers fans are happy to break into a round of these chants. Contrary to the Rang­ers fans’ assertions, Potvin did not suck. He helped the Is­landers to four straight Stanley Cup victories between 1980 and 1983 and beat the Rangers in four straight playoff series.

By the time the 1990s rolled around, the sun had set on the glory days of the Is­landers and attention shifted to their cross-town rival. The Rangers eliminated the Island­ers from the playoffs in 1990, but the Islanders fans clung to their chants of “1940,” a refer­ence to the last time the Rang­ers had won the Stanley Cup. That chant was silenced for­ever in 1994 when the Rang­ers swept the Islanders on their way to their fourth Stanley Cup championship.

Since then, the rivalry between the once bitter en­emies had cooled off. The Islanders failed to make the playoffs thirteen of the last seventeen seasons while the Rangers endured a playoff drought from 1998 to 2004. While Rangers fans took de­light in tormenting the Island­ers about their unsuccessful draft picks, poor performance, and drop in game attendance, the “Battle of New York” had lost its meaning with the Is­landers in the basement of the Atlantic Division.

This year, the rivalry has been resurrected by the unex­pected similarities between the teams. The Rangers didn’t achieve the heights they had last year as they did not secure a playoff spot until the sec­ond to last game of the regu­lar season. While they even­tually gained the sixth seed, the Rangers didn’t achieve the high expectations that had been set after their deep play­off run last year. The Island­ers were also a surprise, but a much more pleasant one. They returned to the postseason for the first time since 2007 and breathed new life into an old rivalry. Games between the Rangers and Islanders became relevant again as the two teams jockeyed for playoff position as the regular season came to a close.

In this year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Islanders faced the top seeded Pittsburgh Penguins while the Rangers took on the Washing­ton Capitals for the fourth time in five years. The Rangers dropped the first two games of the series, but ultimately eliminated the Capitals in sev­en games by winning four of the last five games. In the sec­ond round of the playoffs, the Rangers will play the Boston Bruins, another Original Six team.

The Islanders’ return to the playoffs wasn’t what many fans had hoped for. For ex­ample, the Islanders fell to the Penguins in six games.
Still, it is not all doom and gloom for the team from Long Island, as both the Is­landers and their fans consider this year a success. As the Is­landers left the Coliseum ice, they were serenaded by “Let’s go Islanders” chants from the home crowd. The future looks bright for the team, led by league MVP nominee John Tavares. One can be certain that the Islanders are the road to recovery.

The Rangers didn’t fare much better than their cross town rivals. After eliminat­ing the Washington Capitals in seven games, the Rangers barely avoided a sweep before being eliminated by the Bos­ton Bruins. While this is not the season that Rangers fans were hoping for, they can see promise for the future. Trade deadline acquisition Derick Brassard exploded for twelve points in the first twelve play­off games of his career while rookie Chris Kreider scored an overtime game winning goal.

While the Rangers and Islanders didn’t meet in the playoffs this year, the two New York teams are set on a colli­sion course and will no doubt meet in the coming seasons. Goals will be scored, punches will be thrown, and saves—as well as history—will be made. The “Battle of New York” will once again be fought on — and off — the ice.

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