The New York Rangers look to extend their winning streak to seven tonight as they head to Long Island tonight to take on the rival Islanders. On paper it seems like an easy task as the Rangers are now 9-3-3 while the Islanders are 1-6-3 following their 3-1 start. As Rangers fans know all too well, games in this rivalry don’t turn out how paper would suggest they should as the Islanders always give something extra against the Rangers. The Rangers should know better than to take the Islanders lightly as John Tavares netted a hat-trick against them in a 4-2 loss a month ago. That is why the biggest challenge to extending the winning streak is focus.
A team that is rolling brings tremendous confidence to the ice each game, but there is also something to be said for a team that is struggling horrifically and desperately needs a win. The Rangers have to come out tonight with the mentality that they have lost six straight and play with that desperation of needing those two points or they will get none. The combination of playing a very beatable team and having just had three days off can make both the energy level and sharpness of the team more difficult. That is where the focus really comes in.
The Rangers cannot afford to lose composure if the Islanders look to unnerve them with nonsense. They also have to remain disciplined within the play and keep their penalty numbers down. Staying out of the box has been an understated reason for the current winning streak. That means no cheap stuff after whistles and moving your feet all night to avoid needless stick penalties.
If the Rangers stay out of the penalty box and play their game down low against the Islanders, then the winning streak will be extended. If they get into the Islanders style of up and down hockey and get caught up in the non-hockey stuff, then they will taste defeat for the first time this month. This is one of those tests to see if a team has really turned the corner on their old ways as this is a prime example of a game where the Rangers would play down to the level of their opponent in the past.