The Stanley Cup Playoffs should have a distinctly New York flavor.
With less than a week remaining in the 2014-15 National Hockey League regular season, both the New York Islanders and New York Rangers appear to be two of the 16 franchises that will compete for the Stanley Cup.
Entering play Tuesday, the Rangers needed one point to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and two points to earn the franchise's third Presidents' Trophy. The Islanders needed one point or an Ottawa Senators loss to clinch a playoff berth.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Ryan McDonagh said about the opportunity to win the Presidents' Trophy. "It's obviously not done yet. It's about us playing to our strength and giving us a chance to win."
Both teams were on the road Tuesday. The Rangers visited the Prudential Center for the latest installment of the Hudson River Rivalry, while the Islanders traveled to Philadelphia for a date with the Flyers.
“I don’t think about it," Jack Capuano said about the Islanders not being in the playoffs despite having 98 points following last Saturday night's 3-0 win over the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. "If you would have told us that at this point with 98 points, we’d still be battling, it’s very surprising.It’s amazing the races that are going on in the East and West. You can’t control that. You can control what you can control and that’s all we are focused on right now.”
A playoff season in which arguments can be made for any of 16 playoff teams winning the Cup,perhaps Capuano's philosophy is the most rational approach.
Asignificant aspectofthe Stanley Cup Playoffs is managing momentum shifts, a topic that Derek Stepan touched upon Monday night, a few minutes after he scored the game-tying and overtime game-winning goals against Columbus.
"In order to have success in the playoffs, you have to be able to handle ebbs and flows in games," Stepan said. "You have to be able to respond when your game's not quite there, and we've able to find way to win hockey games when we haven't been as sharp as we'd like it to be."
Which naturally leads to the topic of goaltending, and the Islanders and Rangers contentment with starters Jaroslav Halak and Henrik Lundqvist.
Following Saturday's win over league-worst Buffalo, Capuano praised Halak, who has the franchise's single-season win record for goaltenders with 37.
"[He] made a few big saves," Capuano said of his goaltender.
So, too, did Lundqvist Monday night. Despite facing10 fewer shots than Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Lundqvist was routinely tested by a Blue Jackets team that came into the game having won nine in a row.
Lundqvist recorded 29 saves on 32 shots, keeping the Rangers in a game in which they trailed 3-2 midway through the third period.
"There are always things we can do better, but again it's about finding ways to win," Lundqvist said. "I try to feel good about every save I make, but when it's a tight game and there's some big opportunities for [opponents], it's my job to stop them. The timing is right there and [the Columbus] game was a good test for me because they have really good quality in their forwards. They move the puck really well. They're able to create some big chances.We really earned this one."