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Islanders Back & Forth: Rangers splitshow; first homestand

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A new weekly look at the Islanders last and next few games. Mostly.

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
I liked this part.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

(Hey, folks. I’m gonna try this for a little while and see how it goes. Every Monday, we’ll look back at the last week of Islanders games and what’s on tap for the week ahead. It’ll be mostly observational stuff but with plenty of diversions into nonsense in a format that will steal from at least a half dozen other features around the internet. Enjoy.)

The Islanders are back to begin their final, final (for real this time) season at Nassau Coliseum. Feels like their opponents for today’s home opener - the Boston Bruins - will miss the place as well, since they haven’t lost here since about 1932.

But first, let’s look back at the week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 1: 4-0 win over the Rangers

I might be alone in this, but I’ve been around long enough to know that I’m probably not. It feels like the Islanders have two speeds: One is, “Yup, that’s how they do it” and the other is “Nope, this team won’t win another game all season.” We saw both speeds in full effect this weekend like a very slow-moving, stomach-turning, children’s roller coaster. Like they showed last year in the bubble, the Islanders have a knack for jumping out of the gate playing their game and driving other teams nuts right off the bat. And as they showed us last year before they went into the bubble, they can also get into a rut where they look ineffective and dreadful and generally like they’ve gone haywire. Guess we gotta enjoy games like the opener as much as we can because, man, they are fun.

Game 2: 5-0 loss to the Rangers

Long time listeners to Islanders Anxiety will know that over the last few years, I’ve avoided watching Islanders-Rangers games for two reasons. The first was very stupid and superstitious: it felt like every time I watched the Rangers, they won. This came about more from NBC national games on weekends than anything else. I’d put on a Rangers-Penguins or Rangers-Flyers game on Sunday (neither of which is a great situation for the Islanders, obviously) and it seemed, invariably, that New York would win. Don’t bother looking up their record in those games, because I’m sure I’m wrong and it doesn’t matter.

The second reason is because these rivalry games (or a derby, if you’re a footballer) are a minefield of anxiety and emotion. With these two familial fanbases constantly at each other’s throats, everything is magnified, good and bad, when these two teams get together. And when your team loses, man, it is NOT fun.

With only 56 games this season, eight of which are against these dudes, it would have been hard to skip games against the Rangers anyway. So I decided to face my fear. Game 1 went great! Game 2, not so much.

Now I don’t know what to believe. I’m not saying my hubris after Thursday cursed the Islanders so much that Semyon Varlamov took a puck in the grill during warmups Saturday, sending an unprepared Ilya Sorokin straight into the fire a disastrous debut while the rest of their teammates played like ass in front of him, but I’m not ruling it out, either.

Record for the week: 1-1-0

Season Record: 1-1-0

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Monday, Jan. 18, versus the Bruins

We all know that the Islanders have had very limited success against Boston at home for years (which feels like decades). But I wonder if the tide might start to turn soon*.

The Bruins are older and are now without Zdeno Chara. Their performance in the bubble was subpar. Of course, they still have All Stars up and down the lineup and there’s always like three guys from Providence on the roster that you’ve never heard of that suddenly look like Cam Neely whenever they play the Islanders.

Still, an Islanders-Bruins holiday matinee game is a tradition going back many years and it’ll feel nice to watch one again, even with no fans in the Coliseum. Maybe one of these years, the Islanders will win one of them.

*-he typed, knowing he had just doomed his team to 15 more years of losses.

Thursday, Jan. 21 versus the Devils

Ever since Nico Hischier scored two backbreaking goals in two games against the Islanders last January, I’ve looked at him with wariness. He’s got a ways to go before he’s elevated to “villain,” “nemesis” or the dreaded “Islanders Killer” status, but I’ve got my eye on him.

Predicted record for the week: 1-1. Those damn Bruins again...

Alternate Programming Options:

I’ve watched both episodes of WandaVision (Disney+) multiple times and enjoyed it a lot because it combines two of my favorite things; the MCU and the history and evolution of sitcoms. It’s definitely weird, though, and I hope it sticks the landing. I’ve also started Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. about eight years after it premiered. I have no idea why I didn’t watch it at first. Two episodes in, it’s fine but definitely has the feel of a network action show, the kind I’m pretty sure I haven’t watched since Lost. Talk about a show that didn’t stick the landing...

My wife and I also watched Bad Education over the weekend. The 2020 movie is about a real Long Island-based scandal, in which administrators at Roslyn High School were charging personal purchases and more to the school account to the tune of several million bucks. It’s also strange to see Hugh Jackman tone down his inherent Hugh Jackman-ness to portray just a regular Lawng Ilind guy (who happened to steal a ton of dough and lied to just about everybody).

Bad Education is currently streaming on HBO Max.

Classic Islanders clip just for fun:

Is this Tommy Soderstrom’s only real highlight as an Islander? Not the fight, which he clearly lost (badly), but his line afterwards? I kinda feel like it is.