FISCHLER: Rangers, Isles locked in battle

Share This Story

foxsports admin

Gulp! Or should we say "choke?" Choose your synonyms as hockey's homestretch reaches its boiling point. Sizzling are the , now owners of a three-game winning streak with another "W" due Wednesday at the Garden against the near-extinct . Roaring are the , who took a big bite out of the on Saturday before heading on a road trip to Sunrise, Fla. (Monday), Tampa Bay (Thursday) and Atlanta (Friday). If a gulp is to be heard, it was to be Tuesday night in Chicago where the suddenly uneasy met the at the United Center. Superficially, at least, it looked more like a snap than a gulp for Peter Laviolette's skaters. After all, the 'Hawks were pasted 8-1 in Denver on Saturday before returning to the Windy on Sunday where Brian Sutter's sextet tied Pittsburgh 1-1. But if sports history has taught us anything, it is that hapless, humpty teams such as the and invariably come up with unexpected wins against playoff aspirants in the homestretch. Thus, it behooves both the on Tuesday and a night later, not to take the 'Hawks and Pens with anything less than professional respect. In the ' case, I must add — with emphasis — E-N-E-R-G-Y. Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum was packed; the fans were loud and everything seemed in place for Laviolette's troupe to further energize the audience Saturday. Yet, in his postmortem, Laviolette noted that it was the visitors who displayed more vim, vigor and vitality. Believe me, that should not have been the case, especially since New Jersey was the team which had played the previous night. Hey, there should not be a single excuse for anything less than 100-percent effort from here to the finish line; especially for the and Since I deal with first things first, the Isles at Chicago is in closest focus. For starters, remember that this marks the first of three "must-win" games for the Isles as they enter their final seven matches. The other two will come against Atlanta and Carolina in the final two games of the season. The Chicago test also is a challenge for Laviolette. Does he return — mediocre against the — to the pipes or does he choose , who had been so gallant in last week's tie at Toronto? Me, I go with the kid. I like his confidence and I don't like the fact that Glen Sather might have gotten into Snow's head with the oversized-equipment gambit. Don't laugh; that could adversely affect the manner in which Snow plays. Win or lose in Chicago, I come back with Snow against Toronto on the on Friday. After Chicago, the Isles face difficult foes including Toronto, New Jersey (Sunday at the Meadowlands) and then the (April 1 at the Coliseum), followed by Detroit in Hockeytown USA, on April 3. What remains to be seen is whether the closeness of the causes , et al, to play better or to, ahem, gulp. For the most part, the Isles have been eminently resilient, but that was then and this is now. Nothing really matters except the game against the , from which we will know more of what the really are about. As for the , they should romp against the hapless — except for . Anything less than two points Wednesday will be unacceptable. Like the Isles, the Blueshirts have a goaltending issue. Whatever 's condition, deserves to be in goal against Pitt. And he should remain there as long as he keeps winning. If the keep winning, it will be the who, in the end, will control the Blueshirts' fate. What's more, there will be the fact of the New York-New York, four-point, head-to-head matchup April 1 which could decide the playoff berth. The claim to be comfortable, but it's only talk. Speaking of which, is confident of his team's chances. "I have no doubt that we're going to make the playoffs," Yashin insists. Add : "I don't think anyone's really worrying about the , or Montreal for that matter. We know what we have to do coming up." Isles newcomer agrees, asserting that the team is "in the driver's seat, so we should not be nervous. We should be confident and play like that." The have their sights set on winning the final six games on their schedule. After Pittsburgh, the face Boston, Atlanta, the Isles, the and close out their season in Montreal. To finish without another loss would mean a nine-game winning streak, but the would still need help. If the Isles collect nine of the remaining 14 points on the table, they will eliminate their cross-town rivals. As for the Wednesday Pitt-New York matchup, the Pens (0-14-2 in their last 16 games) have virtually surrendered the season. But the Satherites must not — repeat NOT — look too far ahead, especially toward the games against the (at Nassau) and their home finale against the . New Jersey aims to finish atop Philadelphia, and Pat Burns' boys have a cushion that was fattened Monday night at Florida. Burns is alternating his fifth and sixth defensemen, rotating , and . Personally, I'd go with Tverdovsky more often because of his youth and power shot, but so far the coach has not expressed obvious confidence in the Russian. Then there's the matter of giving — solid against the — adequate rest before the playoffs. At the start of the season, Burns had talked about having play about 20 games in relief of Brodeur. As it happened, Schwab has seen considerably less and will be fortunate to finish with a dozen. Whatever the case, the Devs are in; the are — momentarily — in and the are knocking at the door, still hoping to exit either the Isles or Boston . Anyway you shake it, this is one heckuva a finish. Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and postgame features and reports for both the and on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
Tagged: Corey Schwab, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Janne Niinimaa, Martin Brodeur, Alexei Yashin, Garth Snow, Rick DiPietro, Mike Dunham, Michael Peca, Jason Blake

More Stories From foxsports admin

Play Hockey Simulation Game on WhatIfSports

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Pittsburgh_Penguins/browse/featuredproduct/175178/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_175000/FF_175178_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black
    Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Dallas_Stars/browse/featuredproduct/243363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_243000/FF_243363_xl.jpg&w=100 124.95 Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey
    Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Tampa_Bay_Lightning/browse/featuredproduct/301017/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_301000/ff_301017_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Anaheim_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/398322/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_398000/FF_398322_xl.jpg&w=100 43.99 Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Red_Wings/browse/featuredproduct/403205/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_403000/FF_403205_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack
    Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Chicago_Blackhawks/browse/featuredproduct/408123/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_408000/FF_408123_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey
    Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_Jersey_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/456774/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_456000/ff_456774_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Vancouver_Canucks/browse/featuredproduct/665779/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_665000/ff_665779_xl.jpg&w=100 11.95 Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick
    Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Islanders/browse/featuredproduct/752594/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_752000/ff_752594_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt