Hockey is about passion and rivalry. When it comes to the Rangers and Islanders, you don’t come close to matching the intensity that is generated five times a season when these two teams meet.
With the inception of the Islanders franchise in 1972-73 the two clubs have sparked a powerful mix of emotions at all levels - on the ice, in the dressing room and certainly in the stands - that goes virtually unparalleled in all of professional sports. Rangers fans love to hate the Islanders. Islanders fans love to hate the Blueshirts. It’s nothing personal, just a byproduct of the bitter rivalry that has been cultivated over the past 29 seasons.
The two teams have met a total of 176 times during the regular season since 1972-73, with the Isles holding the slight edge with an 80-79-17 series record. The Islanders also hold a 20-19-0 advantage in 39 career post-season meetings. But regardless of record or roster, the sport of hockey is the overall winner when these teams get together.
So many memories have been created over the last 29 years. Remember the entire Rangers team springing over the boards (including the sharply dressed Nick Fotiu in street clothes) to celebrate the club’s Game Six win over the Isles in the 1979 Semifinals?
Who could forget Don Maloney’s late tap-in past a sprawling Billy Smith in Game Five of the 1984 Patrick Division Semifinals to send the game to OT … only to watch Ken Morrow slide the series winner past Glen Hanlon’s pads minutes later in overtime? Or the four-game Rangers sweep in the 1994 Conference Quarterfinals – the first of four Blueshirt tests before capturing their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. Those are a few of the unforgettable moments linked to this rivalry.
The Rangers enter tomorrow’s game one game over the .500 mark at 8-7-1-0 and have shown signs of their powerful potential over the last few games. The Islanders boast the NHL’s best record at 11-1-1-1, their best start in franchise history. Each roster is loaded with new faces who have never experienced the rivalry before. That will soon change. For three hours tomorrow night at Nassau Coliseum, current and past records mean nothing. The Rangers’ current two-game winning streak against the Isles means nothing. Only one thing is for certain … the passion and intensity that has defined a Rangers-Islanders game for the past 29 seasons will continue.
RANGERS - ISLANDERS CAREER NOTES:
* There have been 39 players who have laced up the skates for both the Rangers and the Isles:
Dave Archibald, Derek Armstrong; Bill Berg, Don Blackburn, Paul Boutilier, Arnie Brown, Eric Cairns, Pat Conacher, Jason Dawe, Rob DiMaio, Mike Donnelly, Dallas Eakins, Chris Ferraro, Ray Ferraro, Jeff Finley, Patrick Flatley, Greg Gilbert, Jari Gronstrand, Glenn Healy, Raimo Helminen, Mark Janssens, Daniel Lacroix, Pat LaFontaine, Troy Loney, Vladimir Malakhov, Don Maloney, Bert Marhall, Mike McEwen, Kevin Miller, Brian Mullen, Sergei Nemchinov, Rich Pilon, Pat Price, Barry Richter, Mathieu Schneider, Jeff Toms, Ron Stewart, John Vanbiesbrouck, Steve Weeks.
* Radek Dvorak registered four goals on March 29, 2001 at Long Island, marking a career high in both goals and points for the winger.
* Andreas Johansson was selected by the Islanders in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft (seventh round, 136th overall) ... Johansson appeared in 18 career matches with the Isles, collecting two goals and three assists.
* Eric Lindros has recorded more points against the Islanders (49 points - 23 goals, 26 assists in 35 games) than any other team in the NHL.
* Vladimir Malakhov is also a former Islander draft choice, selected in the 12th round (191st overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
* Sandy McCarthy skated in his first NHL game on October 5, 1993 vs. the Islanders ... McCarthy was a member of the Calgary Flames.
* Igor Ulanov scored his first NHL goal against the Isles' Mark Fitzpatrick on February 17, 1992 as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.
* Jeff Toms tallied two goals and five assists for seven points, along with 10 penalty minutes in 39 matches with the Islanders last season before being put on waivers ... He was claimed by the Blueshirts on January 13, 2001.
* Isles defenseman Eric Cairns was the Rangers' third choice (72nd overall) in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft ... Cairns skated in 79 career games with the Rangers, recording four points and 239 penalty minutes.
* Mariusz Czerkawski has recorded a career-high 15 penalty minutes twice in his NHL career - the last coming on April 4, 1998 vs. the Rangers.
* Claude LaPointe registered a career-high three assists on March 6, 1993 vs. the Rangers as a member of the Quebec Nordiques.
* Isles captain Michael Peca netted his first career hat trick vs. the Rangers on February 25, 2000 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.