New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders on April 13,...

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders on April 13, 2024. Credit: Send to News

Yo, hockey gods: Enough is enough. Our patience has worn out. It is time for the Rangers and Islanders to meet in a postseason series.

Sure, there is the formality of the teams needing to win their first-round series – the Islanders against the Hurricanes and the Rangers against the Capitals.

The coaches and players have not, should not and will not talk about what comes after that until they get those jobs done. Understood. But we can.

C’mon, now. This is absurd for division rivals in a league that engineers its playoff format to promote division rivalries.

The Islanders and Rangers last faced each other in a playoff series in 1994. The Islanders last won a game in a series against the Rangers in 1990.

The Islanders last won a series against the Rangers in 1984 – before the teams’ coaches, Patrick Roy and Peter Laviolette, had made their NHL debuts as players.

Meanwhile, the Rangers seem to play the Capitals every other spring. We get it: Alex Ovechkin is great, Tom Wilson is mean, yada, yada, yada.

There have been close calls, including in 2015, when the Islanders were a Game 7 loss to the Capitals in the first round from facing the Rangers in the second.

Now we get another chance.

For a while it looked like the teams might meet in the first round, before the Islanders stormed past the rest of the Eastern Conference wild-card contenders and into third place in the Metropolitan Division.

It might have gone the other way had the Rangers not beaten the Islanders in a shootout thriller on April 13 that strengthened their position atop the division.

But here we are, and hockey fans should settle in for an entertaining couple of weeks.

There have not been many times in recent decades when both teams were good, and in this case the Rangers were the best team in hockey in the regular season.

There is far more pressure on them to make a deep playoff run, but neither team is young, and the Islanders’ veteran core knows their time is running short.

Matt Martin, who turns 35 next month and is a free agent to be, told me he has not thought much about the future from an individual standpoint, but he has when it comes to the team.

“It’s difficult to win the Cup, and you don’t know how many runs you’re going to have,” he said. “Obviously the ones that hurt the most were the two deep ones we had [in 2020 and ’21] . . . Those are the ones that crush you.”

He added, “Every time you’re in the playoffs you have to look at it as an opportunity to accomplish what every kid dreams of and what we all dream of.

“Obviously, most of this group has been together for a long time. I think we really want to put our name on that Cup together.”

The Islanders got the attention of everyone in the NHL with their 8-0-1 closing stretch – even TNT Sports analyst Paul Bissonnette, usually one of their most vocal and colorful critics in the media.

When I asked him on Wednesday whether the Islanders have changed his mind, he said they had – to a point.

“I think that they’re going to get beat in probably five or six games by the Carolina Hurricanes,” he said. “I just think that Carolina is just built too strong. But a great finish to the season.”

Bissonnette said the Islanders had improved in protecting late leads, improved their goaltending situation with Semyon Varlamov in net, improved their penalty kill and improved their intangibles.

“I just feel like late in the season the team chemistry finally got there,” he said. “So credit to them in figuring it all out. They still are a little bit slow for my liking. But they are a team that can really bring you into the mud and slow the game down.

“To say they don’t have a chance to win a series, I don’t think that that’s the case.”

But . . . “Really looking forward to that series, but if I had to pick a team, I’m saying Carolina smokes 'em,” Bissonnette said.

We shall see. But for the next couple of weeks at least, it will be hockey heaven around here.

“It's awesome,” said Kyle Palmieri, who was born on Long Island, grew up mostly in New Jersey, and knows the landscape well.

“We look at the way this season’s gone, the ups and downs, it’s been a tough road. We’ve fought the whole way, so we deserve to be here and we’re excited for the opportunity.”

The rest of us are excited, too, at the notion of what comes next should both teams take care of business.


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