Yes, the season has been over for a while now for Islander fans. Instead, we've at least been treated to a glimpse of the future. Anyone who has not been able to make a Bridgeport game now gets a good look with the Isles. The kids playing have created a lot of energy on the ice. And, despite the losses, they are still competing and playing hard, which shows Ted Nolan's skill at guidance, motivation and focus. And this foundation of youth might be more important than a difference of a few positions in this years draft.
Isles had really no shot to either of the most important positions to the draft. Other teams have tail-spun and cracked, pretty much solidifying the top of that draft. Whereas, the Isles, faced with a lot of disappointment and injuries, actually has remained competitive. And despite those in love with Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, it just ain't gonna happen. Both are the tops of this draft. More enticing, to me, is who I feel is might be the best player: Nikita Filatov. If the Isles have recovered from enigmatic Russians to take that shot, well, that is another story.
So, instead, let's face the 2nd best thing about being out of playoff contention. Spoiler. The Rangers need at least 2 pts to seal their spot which got even tighter now that Carolina won against Tampa. It's not like our nefarious NY rivals are going to slip off the playoff perch. Boston is ahead of them on that count, falling to NJ, giving the Devils a very good shot at getting home ice advantage for round 1.
But, let no Ranger fan say these games don't matter. They DO matter. And the kids who are showcasing for the Isles and the vets fighting to keep their jobs should be ready for a barnburner, meeting the Ranger desperation with their own. What better games to show the future. What a best opportunity to stamp some sort of redemption on a season step-backward than to tailspin NYR in two key games.
Here is two games that can create a righteous rain to wash at least some of the frustration and disappointment. No, it won't make everything all better. That will be up to the coach, GM and vision employed on the future this off-season. But it might make the new day that will dawn just a bit closer and brighter to know that who is on the cusp or who will be here bnext season can make it happen.
There is nothing like The Rivalry to walk away with some pride, some positives. And these two games are key to come up with some tough play, moxy and gumption. Something to build on.
It is why Jack Hillen, freshly signed from college, after being pursued by several teams, is slated to play. Despite a smaller size (5'11 is generous), he is supposed to be an excellent puck mover and passer. Lets hope he doesn't try to do too much, and shows good poise at his first shot in the big leagues. How steady is Hillen's nerves? We will find out soon.
It is why you will see Kip Brennan, who has a majestic right hand made for pure pugilistic delight. Right turn, Clyde! This might even be the prime place where Kyle Okposo, who is still gaining confidence, can impose his will and press play. Where he realizes that every time he has the puck, he has opportunity to create something. Lets also not forget Spiller's good play. And Blake Comeau's, who has steadily impressed, and needs to also turn up the heat.
It is a prime opportunity to give us a taste of the future while being a stick into the tricycle wheel spokes of the Ranger's faded playoff push in the present. By no means do I doubt the Rangers are a dangerous team once in the playoffs. But, they did lose a bit of that luster from past weeks as they climbed up the charts. Now it's all very tight, and a toss-up on who they play in the first round. Two wins for them is the right way to step into the playoff round 1.
Isles, in either case of win or loss, better not go quietly into the night. This fan demands it.