Islanders coach urges team to keep it simple against Rangers

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have their eyes set on much bigger goals having clinched a playoff spot way back on March 26. With four games remaining, the Blueshirts hold a five-point lead in the Metropolitan Division and a three-point advantage in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

Meanwhile, their opponent for Tuesday night, are battling for their playoff lives.

The New York Islanders are third in the Metro with 85 points and five games remaining. If they can hold it, it will guarantee them a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, nipping at their heels with 83 points are the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Losing any points over the next week could even mean losing the second wild-card spot. To make matters worse for the Isles, two of their remaining games are against the League-leading Rangers, who have already beaten them twice this season.

In their first encounter, the Rangers had a rip-roaring 6-5 OT comeback win outdoors at MetLife Stadium on February 18. That was followed by a St. Patrick’s Day 5-2 drubbing at MSG on March 17. That’s why Islanders coach Patrick Roy is urging his team to not get into a run-and-gun contest with the Blueshirts at UBS Arena.

“If we want to have success against these guys,” Roy stated. “We need to move the puck well. We need to move the puck north and keep our game very simple.”

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Patrick Roy wants Islanders to play simple game against Rangers

NHL: New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Islanders have been playing really solid hockey lately, winningfour straight to move up the standings. Despite their recent hot streak, the 58-year-old coach understands the tall task ahead of his team.

“[The Rangers] are a good team,” Roy said. “It’s a team that’s very good on the rush. They have D like (Adam) Fox, who will be in on every rush, and if we don’t have good line changes, he’ll make us pay. It will interesting to see how we respond tomorrow.”

Under Roy, who took over mid-season to replace the fired Lane Lambert, the Islanders are 16-12-4. When they lost to the Rangers a second time, they were mired in an 0-5-1 slide, so things should be much more difficult for the Blueshirts this time around.

Semyon Varlamov has already been tabbed as the starter, and is playing some lights out hockey in net for the Isles. Over his last seven starts, he’s 5-1-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage that includes a 2-0 shutout against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Over his career, the 35-year-old veteran has been excellent against the Blueshirts, with a 13-8-2 record. Varlamov also owns a lifetime .914 save percentage and 2.62 GAA with five shutouts, that he picked up all while playing for the Islanders.

“I think it will be a good game tomorrow,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette stated. “They’ll be ready to play. We know exactly where they’re sitting (in the standings), and what we’re in for. We’ll be ready to play and be sharp as well.”

As these two teams get set to clash in another historic chapter of this bitter rivalry, it’s possible the Rangers could play a role in knocking the Islanders out of playoff contention. On the flip side, the Islanders would love to spoil the Rangers chance for their fourth Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.

Buckle up.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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