The Rangers (7-5-0, 14 pts) will spend Valentines Day playing one of their most hated rivals when the Islanders (4-7-1, 9 pts) invade Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The Blueshirts are hopeful that recent trends will continue as the Rangers enter play on a season-high three-game winning streak, while the Islanders come in trying to snap a season-worst five-game losing streak.
That the Rangers win steak would reach three games seemed in the bag midway through the third period of Tuesday's game in Boston, but a 3-0 lead disappeared into a 3-3 game which was not decided until Ryan Callahan won it for the Rangers in the fourth round of the shootout. Despite the Bruins two late goals which forced overtime, Henrik Lundqvist was again outstanding between the pipes for the Rangers, turning in some of his best work of the season while stopping 37 of 40 shots. Having started 11 of the Blueshirts first 12 games this season, Lundqvist seems to be rounding into top form, and is again the team's backbone.
However head coach John Tortorella wasn't all that impressed with Tuesday's 4-3 victory. In fact Tortorella said after practice Wednesday that he wasn't sure what his lineup would look like against the Islanders because there were numerous things he was not happy with despite the victory in Boston. That the Bruins were able to put 40 shots on goal, and had another 25 shots blocked, means that the Rangers allowed their opponants 65 shot attempts at Lundqvist, far too many. One might speculate as to whether Tortorella may try to find a way to reinsert Brian Boyle back into the lineup Thursday after the 6-foot-6 center was a healthy scratch the previous three games.
On the positive side for the Rangers, along with Lundqvist's play, Carl Hagelin continued to shine by scoring his third goal in the past two games Tuesday. He now has six points (4-2-6) in the last five contests. And Rick Nash starred once again with a highlight-reel assist on Hagelin's goal, and a gorgeous tally during the shootout. Secondary scoring from Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Anton Stralman on Tuesday continued a recent trend where players like J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Arron Asham, and Ryan McDonagh have scored while stalwarts Marian Gaborik (one goal in last seven games) and Brad Richards (no goals in seven games) have struggled to light the lamp.
Another good sign from Tuesday's win was that the Rangers blocked so many shots. A staple of their success a year ago, the Rangers equaled their single-game high in blocked shots against the Bruins, with McDonagh and Dan Girardi each blocking seven.
Tonight's contest will be the second in a week between the Rangers and Islanders at The Garden. Last Thursday the Rangers skated to a 4-1 win as Miller netted the first two goals of his NHL career and Lundqvist made 27 saves. That loss was the middle one in a string of five straight for the Isles, who have been outscored 20-9 in that stretch. Their most recent defeat was a 6-4 home-ice loss at the hands of the Hurricanes on Monday.
The lone bright spot for the Isles Monday was the reawakening of their early-season power play success. After starting 2013 with a 9-24 run on the man advantage through seven games, the Isles were blanked in their next 22 chances covering four games. But then they scored four power play goals in five opportunities Monday against Carolina as Matt Moulson scored a pair, and John Tavares and Frans Nielsen also contributed power play goals. Veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky recorded a pair of assists, his first two points as an Islander Tuesday.
After Rick DiPietro surrendered five goals on 25 shots (there was an empty-net goal, too) it is expected that Evgeni Nabokov will be starting in goal for the Islanders tonight. Nabokov hast started ten of the Isles 12 games so far, and posted a 4-5-1 record, 3.00 goals against average, and .897 save percentage.
Will recent streaks continue and the Rangers will win their fourth in a row tonight? Or will the Islanders potent power play reverse recent trends for these two two New York rivals? Share your predictions below.