The New York Rangers and the New York Islanders are dead even in the Metropolitan Division standings through 19 games in this 2022-2023 NHL season.
While the Empire State rivals do not have identical records, they each have 22 points in the standings. The Islanders have more wins (11) than the Rangers (9), so they sit in third in the Metro while last year’s Eastern Conference finalists are in fourth.
Based on last season, the Rangers would easily be the favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season if one had to choose between these Metropolitan teams. However, these clubs are neck and neck, so which one is truly more likely to get in?
Will the Islanders or Rangers emerge as Metropolitan Division threats?
Let’s start by looking at the offenses. Surprisingly, the Islanders have had the better offensive attack so far this season, scoring 3.3 goals per game compared to the Rangers’ 2.9 goals per contest.
Individually, the Isles have two point-per-game players in Mathew Barzal (21 points) and Brock Nelson (19).
The Rangers actually have more guys with a point per game, as Artemi Panarin (22), Mika Zibanejad (21), and Adam Fox (21) are leading the way.
What concerns me here for the Rangers is the same thing that concerned me entering the season: they’re top-heavy. I’ve said repeatedly that they lost more than they added over the summer, and I think that’s why with their stars playing well, they’re barely in the playoff picture.
Defensively, these Metropolitan Division rivals are about as close as it gets. The Rangers have a slight edge, allowing 2.7 goals per game. The Islanders allow 2.8 goals per game.
While it’s been the Blueshirts with the better defense, it’s the Isles that have had the better goaltending. Ilya Sorokin has a.925 save percentage on the year, eight points higher than Igor Shesterkin’s save percentage for the Rangers.
Semyon Varlamov (.914) has also been a solid option for the Islanders, while Jaroslav Halak (.883) has yet to win a game with the Rangers.
The reality is that I still don’t see either of these teams as being playoff teams in the Metropolitan Division, but if I had to pick one, I’d say the Islanders.
So far, they have overcome what I expected to be a glaring flaw (their lack of offense). The question for them is regarding the sustainability of their offense. For the Rangers, it’s about whether or not they can fix their lack of depth.
I trust the Isles more, as they may have in-house solutions after all. The Rangers do not, and therefore, have more work to do. If only one makes the playoffs, it’ll be the Islanders.