First, a disclaimer: it wasn't a Stanley Cup win, or a playoff series win, or even one of those wins on the final day of the season that fans in blue and orange could lord over their crosstown rivals all summer long.
On the surface it was just two points earned in January, but the night after enduring years of butt-kickings at the hands of their older brothers—with Rangers stick-salutes on Coliseum ice being the twist of the knife—was as feel-good a moment for Isles fans as any other in recent history. blitzing the Tuesday
Which, OK, recent history hasn't been all that kind to the New York Islanders and their fans. "Tire fires" and whatnot.
But whatever. Point is: the Isles manhandled the Rangers at Madison Square Garden for 59 minutes and 55 seconds (Ed. note: conservative estimate) of ice time in what was the most important regular-season rivalry game in decades.
And now that we're done with the requisite YO BRO IT WAS JUST ONE GAME OK RELAX, we can move on to this not-at-all premature statement: the Islanders are officially the kings of New York, y'all.
After Tuesday night's road shutout win, we feel safe in saying that the game wasn't a one-off, or even a microcosm; it was the arrival of the sea change in the Battle of New York that's been brewing since last season.
To be politically correct, the Rangers—winners of 13-of-14 games since Dec. 8 and owners of the of the NHL's Hottest Team mantle coming into the matchup—were never really in the game at all, which happened to be the second win in as many tries by the Islanders at MSG this year.
To be politically incorrect, the Rangers got sonned in their own building.
Let's crunch some numbers
First, the not-so-fancy stats.
The Islanders did a lot of things better than the Rangers, because the result of constricting, dominant hockey is often a statistical advantage for the team that's doing the soul crushing.
The Isles outscored their opposition 3-0, outshot them 44-27, outhit them 28-25, and out-faceoff'd them 32-27. They also scored more shorthanded goals (1) and took fewer penalties (2), if you care about such things.
As for the non-traditional numbers, just look at the even-strength shot attempt chart. LOOK AT IT:
See that section of the chart between the two dotted vertical lines in the middle? The part from minutes 20-40 where the orange line keeps climbing—especially the first half of the second period—and the blue line is struggling to keep up? We don't want to say that it's a metaphor for what the next few years are going to look like when it comes to these two teams...but we're not not going to say it either.
The Islanders absolutely
pwned f4ce owned that stretch of the game, recording almost 30 shot attempts to the Rangers' 20. And that doesn't even do the on-ice action justice.
Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were all but bemoaning the lack of pressure generated by the Rangers. The Isles were doing everything that could be done: forechecking, hitting, cycling, exiting the defensive zone with controlled passes, and entering the offensive zone with speed and possession.
The three goals they scored during the second period were the direct result of them being able to control the pace of play for extended stretches.
What's more, the third period had basically the same structure from a shot-attempt standpoint. Score effects—where the team leading in the final period sits back and is content to dump and change—hardly registered on the chart, as evidenced by the steady climb of that orange line as the Isles kept recording shots.
Not once did the Rangers overtake the Islanders in total shot attempts after minute 22 of game time.
And if you're yelling about small sample size playing a factor here, maybe check the season-long rankings. As of Jan. 14 before any games were played, at even strength the Isles were fourth in score-adjusted Corsi (SaC, 54.3%), first in score-adjusted shots on goal (SaSOG, 55.2%), and first in score-adjusted Fenwick (SaF, 55.9%).
Correct us if we're wrong, but those numbers seem, um...higher than the Rangers': 16th in SaC (51.3%), 12th in SaSOG (51.6%), and 17th in SaF (51%).
But what about leadership, grit, and battle level?
Because charts might feel a little cold or clinical to the JUST WATCH THE GAME crowd, and we get that.
Which is why we'd be remiss to not highlight all of the good things the Islanders did that you totally saw with your eyeballs and didn't care about quantifying right then and there (or ever), frankly, because sports are best watched without spreadsheets sometimes, nerds.
So what did the eye-test show us?
It showed that the Isles held Rick Nash (26 goals, 15 assists) mostly in check, keeping him within arm's reach at all times and limiting his touches to outside of the scoring chance area. (We'll collectively agree to forget that one scoring chance where he muscled through two Isles defenders with all the grown-ass-man strength of that one dude bullying his way into the post during a pickup basketball game at the YMCA.)
They even scored two of their goals against the Nash line. For a guy who had eight points in his previous eight games, Nash was pretty quiet on Monday. But to be fair, it wasn't really his fault.
The Islanders also chased perennial Vezina Trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist from the game after two periods of play, right after he conceded a soft shorthanded goal to Frans Nielsen off the rush. (In his defense, it was Frans Nielsen doing the shooting, so...) If you're keeping score at home, Lundqvist has now allowed nine goals to the Isles in two games this year.
So the Islanders are legit?
The Islanders are legit.
They ended their seven-game road trip at 5-2—remember when the Isles were destined for the Draft lottery after losses to Edmonton and Vancouver?—and now own first place in the Eastern Conference (the Eastern Conference!) after blanking the Rangers. If that's not a sign to the fan base to relax, then we're not getting one this year.
The Isles have been an elite team all season; it's not like they snuck out of MSG with a lucky win. The rest of the league should probably get used to seeing the Islanders at or near the top of the standings for a long time to come.
The Rangers were just the latest team to get an up-close view.