Crossing the Hudson River from New Jersey takes us right into Manhattan, where the New York Rangers are another team that cannot be ignored.
I personally believe the Rangers have the best goaltender in the Metro in Igor Shesterkin. He’s going to give them 50-60 quality starts, with a chance to win most every night. But they brought in some experience and a multi-time Cup winning pedigree in Jonathan Quick, giving him the best backup he’s ever had. In the crease, the Rangers are in great shape.
Which leads us to their roster, which is also really good. They have talent, depth and experience at every position; returning essentially their entire team from last season, save some adjustments at the bottom of the lineup. They’re led by the usual suspects: Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Chris Kreider, and Vincent Trochek.
They also bring in Blake Wheeler, who adds a ton of size, skill and more experience to their talented middle-six. I really like this team, and I think they’re being slept on a little bit – let’s not forget, they finished just one point behind New Jersey last season. They could contend for the division under the fresh leadership of new head coach Peter Laviolette.
If we head just a little further east, we run right into Long Island, where the New York Islanders might be getting stale – but it’s hard to write this team off as well. They finished fourth in the division with 93 points last season, and will return the same lineup this year. No really, it’s the exact same lineup – there aren’t many major additions or subtractions for the Isles, unless you consider 38 year old Zach Parise, who still might return. They finally relieved themselves of Josh Bailey as well, a move seemingly years in the making.
But the core of this team, Mat Barzal, Bo Horvat, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, Ryan Pulock, and on down; comes back for another run. They’ll lean heavily on Ilya Sorokin, who is the only goaltender in the division that might be able to push Shesterkin for top honors, as they look to again be a playoff contender.
At some point, it feels like the Islanders are going to have to blow this roster all up. It really is stagnating – but for the time being, they’re still in the hunt for that 85-100 point level, and sometimes getting into the playoffs is all you need to have a hot goalie take over. Just ask the Florida Panthers last season.