Islanders' big win over Rangers shows rivalry is intact, creates playoff anticipation

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BishopBen Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop made 32 saves Wednesday in the Lightning's 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks and has now won four of his past five starts.

PhaneufDion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs
Phaneuf had a tough night in the Leafs' 6-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, finishing minus-4 and taking a penalty during the Jets' four-goal third period.

Are the Islanders ready to supplant the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Yes, the playoffs are a long way away, but the New York Islanders' compelling 2-1 shootout victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday makes you pine for the drama that would come from an all-New York postseason series. As for all the bleating and boo-hooing about a lack of scoring these days, the teams combined for 71 shots on goal in a rollicking affair. That's fun, regardless of how many pucks went in the net. Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak was tremendous for his team, matching the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist stop for stop. I'm not sure the Islanders are at the point yet where we would suggest they're on the level of the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers, but a game like Wednesday's suggests that day might not be far off. Best part of the night? The Barclays Center announced a sellout for the Rangers' first visit to the Isles' new home in Brooklyn, a stark contrast to the team's tepid attendance through the first quarter of the NHL season. So, do we see the Islanders eventually tracking down the Rangers this season, or is that asking too much?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: That is certainly a series we can all get behind, Scotty, and I'm calling dibs on covering it if it happens! There was a playoff feel to that game, an edge you don't normally get for a midseason game. The fans are obviously invested in the rivalry, but the key here is that you sense the players are, too. That makes all the difference in the world. Imagine adding some playoff spice to that dynamic and with these teams as they're currently built. The Rangers don't have a difference-maker among their skaters who can match Islanders captain John Tavares. On the other hand, Halak is no Lundqvist. It would be an unreal playoff matchup that would have seven games written all over it.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: What a phenomenal game to watch in New York. Not only was the on-ice product great, it was great to hear a sellout crowd trading chants. Prior to the 2014 Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium against the Islanders and New Jersey Devils, the last time the Rangers were the visiting team in the city was 1942. On Wednesday night, there were plenty of shots and quality scoring chances, the aforementioned great goaltending and a combined 104 hits. The Islanders, like coach Jack Capuano, are gritty and have a certain swagger to them. We've seen it the past few seasons, and I see it continuing in 2015-16. Although I picked the Rangers to win the Eastern Conference, I can definitely see the Islanders making it difficult. And I would love to see a playoff series between these teams in the spring. It would be incredible hockey, just like it was on Wednesday.

Sean McIndoe@DownGoesBrown: "The Rangers' streak of Metro dominance ends thanks to a seven-game upset at the hands of the Islanders." That was my prediction in my season preview, and I'm sticking with it. Granted, I made the same call last season, and we saw how that turned out. (Thanks, Washington Capitals.) And sure, it's probably wishful thinking as much as anything. But when you have a franchise that hasn't won a playoff round in an astounding 22 years and counting, and it has put together a team that's as much fun to watch as the current Islanders are, it's impossible not to root for it. So I'm all-in. I want to see Rangers-Islanders, and I want to see the rivalry come all the way back. Let's book it for late April, and let's have Denis Potvin drop the puck for the opening faceoff.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Scott, you're right, there's a lot of time, and things can change in a hurry. Had we projected potential Stanley Cup finals matchups a couple of months ago, a few of us might have suggested Tuesday night's game between the Ducks and Lightning as a preview. Now it's simply a game between two teams scrapping to get back into playoff position. Ben Bishop did a nice job getting the Lightning out of Anaheim with a win, making 32 saves in Tampa's 2-1 win. Those three games in California are always a nice litmus test for Eastern Conference teams to see how they're playing. The Lightning passed the first test and now have back-to-back games this weekend against the Sharks and Kings. We may have a better sense of how things are headed with Tampa this season after this weekend is wrapped up.

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